Evergreens Advance North in Russia As Siberia Warms

taiga photo

photo: peupleloup/Creative Commons

An example of the kind of very tangible effects that climate change is causing right now: New research in Global Change Biology shows that the boreal forest in Russia is already experiencing noticeable shifts in vegetation types as the area warms. Trees that are more tolerant of warmer weather are moving northward at increasing rates of speed.

Larch trees drop their needles in the fall, allowing the vast snow-covered ground surface of winter to reflect sunlight and heat back into space. This helps keep the climate in the region very cold. But evergreen conifers, such as spruce and fur, retain their needles year round. These trees absorb sunlight, which causes ground-level heat retention. This creates ideal conditions for the proliferation of evergreens, to the detriment of the leaf-dropping larches. The result is a northward progression of evergreens and a farther-northward retreat by the larch forests. (Science Daily)

The advance of evergreens has implications for further warming and melting of permafrost: If the temperature at ground-level are kept higher because of more trees that hold their needles year round it can help speed the melting of permafrost, which globally holds about 15% of the world's stored carbon.

All told, Russia's boreal forests are the largest single expanse of forest in the world, as large as the entire continental United States in fact.

Here's the original article: Sensitivity of Siberian larch forests to climate change
More on Boreal Forests:
170 Million Acres of Boreal Forest Saved in Major Historic Agreement! That's the Size of Texas
Boreal Forests Store Twice as Much Carbon as Tropical - So Why Aren't We Doing More to Protect Them?

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