Arctic tundra is getting greener, what does it mean?

Arctic tundra is getting greener, what does it mean?

IN physical geography, a tundra is a type of biome where tree growth is inhibited by cold temperatures and a short growing season. The term tundra comes from Russian which means ‘high plain’ and ‘passage in the mountains without trees’.

The tundra landscape changes dramatically as temperatures change and summers lengthen, with trees growing tall in a situation called ‘Arctic greening’.

Isla Myers-Smith, an ecologist, a National Geographic traveler , and a professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, led a team of researchers studying these changes. They focused on shrubs, tundra woody species that respond quickly to warming.

His fieldwork was mostly conducted in the Yukon Territory, Canada. In recent years, due to travel restrictions due to the pandemic, the team conducted research in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland, where the last tundra can be seen in the United Kingdom.

Year after year developments allow the Arctic zone to become ever greener, becoming the same as this area in southwestern Alaska.

As temperatures warm, the permafrost melts, releasing some of the 1,700 billion tons of carbon, nearly twice the amount contained in the atmosphere, mostly in the form of partially decomposed ancient animals and plants.

As the soil warms, plants grow taller and denser, with the snow acting as a blanket for the soil and further accelerating the warming to release more carbon.

Myers-Smith also studied another factor, namely that the shaded soil from large, tall plants may maintain cool soil temperatures during the summer.

“The shade balances the temperature, but the question is whether it will continue as we see temperatures warming,” he explained.

With the tundra becoming greener, Myers-Smith sees significant implications for wildlife, especially animals that depend on humans.

The timing of vegetation in the spring affects when a reindeer starts its migration, where its journey ends and the nutrients in the milk for its young, all of which can affect its population numbers.

Other animals, such as moose and beavers, also move north, out of the boreal forest as the tundra begins to green up.

Citing a report from, the United Nations (UN) body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, estimated that any change in snow cover would already have an impact on food and water security.

Many indigenous communities depend on hunting, trapping and fishing, and the development of green areas will only affect the balance of the complex Arctic system.

“Many of us think of the Arctic as a very remote and isolated place. But the fact is that it is a residence for a group of people.

“The way the global system works means that accelerated warming in the tundra will eventually head south.
“Anywhere, the change is necessary and important, we have to do something,” he said.

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