Environmentalists predict the complete disappearance of the Siberian tundra

(ORDO NEWS) — Global warming is affecting the Arctic the most. Modeling has shown that the Siberian tundra will undergo truly radical transformations in the coming centuries.

As you might guess from the name, global climate change affects various parts of the planet. But the most rapid and dramatic impacts are occurring in the polar regions, such as the Arctic.

The average temperature there has risen by two degrees in 50 years, and the larch taiga is actively advancing on the Siberian tundra.

“For the Arctic Ocean, sea ice, current and future warming, this could have serious consequences,” said Professor Ulrike Herzschuh.

“But environmental changes will occur on land as well. The huge areas of tundra in Siberia and North America will be greatly reduced, while the border of the forest (adjacent to the taiga tundra), which is already slowly moving, will soon begin to rapidly move north.

The tundra stretched out as a strip along the Arctic coasts of Eurasia, North America and a number of large islands, including Greenland. Peculiar communities have formed there, adapted to a very short summer and other harsh conditions.

Many species live exclusively in the tundra – about five percent are endemic among them. These are, say, dryad shrub plants, polar poppy, as well as willow and birch elfin, that is, squat forms of such plants. Reindeer, lemmings, very furry polar bumblebees and other animals live next to them.

Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (Germany) used computer simulations to predict further developments in these natural areas. Their conclusions are rather pessimistic: it is possible to save a significant part of the Siberian tundra only if the climate change is actively combated.

The authors of the article used the LAVESI model developed at the Alfred Wegener Institute, which has a very high resolution and even considers individual trees on the border of taiga and tundra, including their life cycle.

It is estimated that if drastic measures are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (the so-called RCP 2.6 scenario), further temperature rise in the Arctic is likely to be limited to two degrees or less.

But if active emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continue (scenario RCP 8.5), we may see much more dramatic warming, and the average summer temperature in the Arctic by 2100 will increase by 14 degrees.

The taiga will then move northward at a rate of 30 kilometers per decade. However, the tundra does not have the ability to “retreat” in the same direction: the ocean is located to the north, so its area will rapidly decrease.

According to the consensus forecast, only six percent of the Siberian tundra stretching for 4,000 kilometers will survive in 500 years. The most optimistic scenario assumes that about 30 percent of these ecosystems will survive.

Scientists believe that as it disappears, the tundra will first turn into two isolated “islands” at a distance of about 2,500 kilometers from each other – in Taimyr and Chukotka.

It follows from the work that these changes will be irreversible and the restoration of the original tundra belt is impossible even if the climate becomes colder in the future.

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