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Earth’s Coldest Forests Are Shifting Northward With Climate Change: Study

For this study, the researchers used 40 years of moderately fine (30m) resolution satellite observations and various geospatial climate-related datasets of the boreal forest and assessed where and why vegetation greened and browned during recent decades

Earth’s Coldest Forests Are Shifting Northward With Climate Change: Study
The study was published in the journal ‘Global Change Biology’

Washington: According to a new study, rising temperatures are causing Earth’s coldest forests shifting northward which is raising concerns about biodiversity. It can risk wildfires and ascend the impacts of climate change on northern communities. The Boreal forest is a belt of cold-tolerant conifer trees that increase 9,000 miles across northern North America and Eurasia. It accounts for almost a quarter of the Earth’s forest area and is the coldest-though mostly rapidly warming-forest biome. The study was published in the journal ‘Global Change Biology’.

For this study, the researchers used 40 years of moderately fine (30m) resolution satellite observations and various geospatial climate-related datasets of the boreal forest and assessed where and why vegetation greened and browned during recent decades. “Greening” indicates higher rates of vegetation growth, which can happen when climate warming promotes the growth of trees and shrubs, as was observed near the arctic and alpine tree lines. “Browning” indicates lower rates of vegetation growth and potentially vegetation death, such as when hotter and drier conditions suppress tree growth and kill trees.

Also Read: Here Is All You Need To Know About Wildfires

Logan Berner, assistant research professor in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS) and Scott Goetz, Regents’ professor and director of the GEODE Lab said,

There is emerging evidence that climate change is causing boreal trees and shrubs to expand into arctic and alpine tundra, while at the same time causing trees to become more stressed and die along the warm southern margins of the boreal forest. These dynamics could lead to a gradual northward shift in the geographic extent of the boreal forest biome, but the extent to which such changes are already underway has remained unclear, they added.

What they found wasn’t exactly a surprise. Vegetation became greener across much of the cold northern margins of the boreal forest; warmer conditions led to increased vegetation growth and enabled trees and shrubs to expand into arctic and alpine tundra. Conversely, vegetation became browner along parts of the warm southern margins of this biome as a result of hotter, drier conditions increasing tree stress and death. Intriguingly, Berner said,

Vegetation was more likely to become greener in areas with high soil nitrogen, indicating that soil nutrient availability is an important constraint on the response of boreal vegetation to climate change. The boreal forest ecosystem is changing in many ways over recent decades, and those changes are often linked with increasing fire disturbance, Goetz said. Here we intentionally focused on areas that were not recently disturbed by fire so we could tease out the effect of climate change. Our hypotheses about what would happen were verified by this analysis–forests are getting more productive in the cooler northern and higher elevation areas, and they’re getting less productive as a result of hot air masses and drying in the warmer and more southerly areas. We fully expect that will continue and probably intensify in the years to come, he added.

Also Read: Reversing Global Warming: Bill Gates Talks About Ways To Reduce Pollution And Protect The Environment

Changes in vegetation could affect both plant and animal biodiversity, especially species like caribou and moose, which have specific foraging preferences (e.g. deciduous shrubs and trees). These wildlife species are critical sources of food for subsistence communities in the boreal- tundra ecotone. Changes in vegetation along both the northern and southern margins of the boreal forest will impact wildfire regimes, likely increasing the risk of more and severe fires. Changes in vegetation also impact the stability of carbon-rich permafrost soils and absorption of solar energy by the land surface in ways that could accelerate climate warming. Moreover, increasing tree mortality could have widespread implications for forest products while also leading to further degradation of semi-continuous and sporadic permafrost.

These future effects are not limited to the geographical area around the forest.

Fundamentally, greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing Earth’s climate to warm, which in turn is leading the boreal forest to shift northward, as well as impacting other ecosystems across the planet, Berner said. To minimize adverse impacts of climate change, efforts are needed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially related to fossil fuel consumption and deforestation. Furthermore, northern communities need to plan for potential changes in vegetation that could impact resource availability (e.g. wildlife, timber) and wildfire risk, he added.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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