The northern landscape of the Earth is changing with more warming in the Arctic region. A new study using satellite images to track global tundra ecosystems over decades found the region has become greener as warmer air and soil temperatures led to increased plant growth.
Global change ecologist (Northern Arizona University) who led the study said that the greening of the Arctic was a ‘bellwether of global climatic change’ and is a biome-scale response to rising air temperatures’.
Noting that Arctic tundra was one of the coldest biomes on Earth, the researcher said that this was also the most rapidly warming. Nature Communications published the study, which is said to be the first to measure vegetation changes in entire Arctic tundra from Alaska and Canada to Siberia. The satellite data used was from Landsat, a joint mission of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. The research is part of NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE). This is aimed to better understand how ecosystems are responding in these warming environments and the broader social implications.
The researchers said that when active plants absorb more carbon from the atmosphere, the warming temperatures could be thawing permafrost. This would result in the release of greenhouse gases.
The study said that about 38 per cent of the tundra sites across Alaska, Canada, and western Eurasia showed greening between 1985 and 2016. Berner also said that there was rapid increase in summer air temperatures in the region.
The researchers also found that the greening patterns was also associated with higher soil temperatures and higher soil moisture.