Global climate change has been identified as a serious threat with profound impacts in tundra ecosystems.
The tundra biome is responding more rapidly to climate change than any other biome on the planet, according to recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Recent evidence indicates that widespread expansion of shrubs and other vegetation is taking place around the tundra biome - known as the greening of the Arctic.
Climate change in the Arctic is projected to continue to be rapid, with 2 to 10°C warming over the next 100 years. Dramatic changes to tundra vegetation can change carbon storage, reflectance of the tundra surface and permafrost thaw, creating feedbacks that could accelerate global climate change. A significant unknown however, is at what rate vegetation change will continue to respond to the warming climate and to what extent other non-climatic factors may limit future vegetation change.
I will present the different lines of evidence for tundra vegetation change to climate warming from around the tundra biome including ecological monitoring, experiments, and imagery collected using drones - remotely piloted aircraft systems from my research group’s focal research site Qikiqtaruk - Herschel Island in the Canadian Arctic. I will illustrate how large-scale experiments using things as simple as tea bags, are helping us to project the influence of tundra vegetation change on soil decomposition over time. Finally, I will discuss how we can integrate these different lines of evidence to better project future vegetation change and the resulting impacts of this change across the tundra biome.
Speaker: Dr. Isla Myers-Smith, School of Geosciences