Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers predict greener Greenland

28.08.2013
In 2100, a warmer climate will allow growth of trees and bushes in large parts of that Greenland, which is currently ice-free

Scientists expect the future climate to become warmer, and that this will apply to the Arctic in particular. Here the temperature is expected to increase considerably more than the average on Earth, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change average scenario (A1B).


This image shows forest planted in southern Greenland (Qanassiassat) from 1953 onwards. With the expected climate change by 2100, scientists expect that forest of this kind will be able to grow in large parts of the current ice-free areas in the southern half of Greenland.

Credit: Photo: Anders Ræbild.


This is Tongass National Forest, Alaska. The researchers predict that in the future forests of this type can grow in the southern parts of Greenland.

Credit: Photo: John Schoen, Anchorage.

What will this mean for Greenland? A very significant change will be the emergence of forests, where there are currently only four species of trees and large bushes indigenous to Greenland – and they only grow in small areas in the south.

An international research group including Professor of Biology Jens-Christian Svenning, Aarhus University, has analysed which species will be able to grow in the climate expected in Greenland in 2100. The analysis shows that a majority of 44 relevant species of North American and European trees and bushes will be able to grow in Greenland in the future.

In fact, the analysis points to the fact that a considerable number of species would already be able to grow in Greenland today. This is supported by actual experiments, where various species of trees have been planted in Greenland, including Siberian larch, white spruce, lodgepole pine and Eastern balsam poplar.

By the end of the century, a key species like the Arctic dwarf birch will probably be able to find suitable habitats in most areas of Greenland that are currently ice-free, far beyond its current distribution. Here we are talking about more than 400,000 square kilometres, or an area almost the size of Sweden.

Opportunities for Greenlanders

The researchers conclude that southern Greenland and the area around Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strømfjord) already have the potential to become much greener, with a forest flora corresponding to that occurring during former interglacial periods. With the expected climate change by 2100, scientists expect that such flora should be able to grow in large parts of the ice-free areas in the southern half of Greenland.

“In other words, Greenland has the potential to become a lot greener,” says Professor Svenning. The new opportunities for trees and bushes may oust Arctic animals and plants, but could also be beneficial to the Greenlanders.

“Forests like the coastal coniferous forests in today’s Alaska and western Canada will be able to thrive in fairly large parts of Greenland, with trees such as Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine. This will provide new opportunities for the population of Greenland. For example, we see that people use wood wherever there is forest. This could also create new opportunities for activities such as hunting and the commercial exploitation of berries. Forest and scrub will also reduce erosion and affect water run-off,” says Professor Svenning.

Trees spread slowly

Why are the trees not already in place in Greenland? Partly because most trees only spread slowly by themselves, but also because Greenland is very isolated. The researchers’ models show that it will take more than 2000 years for Greenland’s indigenous species of trees to spread to all those areas of the country that will have a suitable climate by 2100.

In Greenland, some species arrived relatively quickly after the last Ice Age, while other species that rely on dispersal by birds or wind first arrived a couple of thousand years later. However, the researchers’ analysis shows that most plants have not yet utilised the Greenlandic countryside following the last Ice Age, and that the man-made climate change will rapidly create further opportunities for the plants. Taking advantage of this will be a slow process on their own, however.

Humans will play a deciding role

Professor Svenning indicates that humans will play a crucial role when trees and bushes naturally spread so slowly.

“People often plant utility and ornamental plants where they can grow. I believe it lies in our human nature. Such plantings could have a huge impact on the Greenlandic countryside of the future as a source of dissemination. This certainly has positive aspects.

But it would also be wise to be cautious, and thereby avoid some of the problems we’ve seen at our latitudes with invasive species such as giant hogweed and rugosa rose. The Greenlandic countryside will be far more susceptible to introduced species in future than it is today. So if importing and planting species takes place without any control, this could lead to nature developing in a very chaotic way, reminiscent of the Klondike,” warns Professor Svenning.

The work to implement the analyses was carried out by Signe Normand. She was educated at Aarhus University, and is returning in February 2014 to take up a position as assistant professor without a fixed term. She is currently working at the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape (WSL).

Please contact

Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, tel. +45 8715 6571, mobile +45 2899 2304, svenning@biology.au.dk

Link

A greener Greenland? Climatic potential and long-term constraints on future expansions of trees and shrubs. Normand S. et al. 2013. Phil Trans R Soc B 20120479.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0479

Photos:

Photo 1: On a picnic in Greenland
Forest planted in southern Greenland (Qanassiassat) from 1953 onwards. With the expected climate change by 2100, scientists expect that forests of this kind will be able to grow in large parts of the current ice-free areas in the southern half of Greenland. Photo: Anders Ræbild.
Photo 4: Coastal forest in Alaska
Tongass National Forest, Alaska. The researchers predict that forests of this type will be able to grow in the southern parts of Greenland in the future. Photo: John Schoen, Anchorage.
Photo 5: JCS
Professor Jens-Christian Svenning in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA. Engelmann spruce can be seen in the background – one of the species that has been planted successfully in Greenland. According to the researchers’ models, they will be able to thrive in large parts of southern Greenland in a future warmer climate. Photo: Else Magård, Aarhus University.
Photo 6: Sn
Postdoctoral Fellow Signe Normand doing fieldwork at the bottom of Nuup Kangerlua fjord (Nuuk inlet). She headed the work to analyse the possibilities for the future increment in Greenland, www.signenormand.net. Photo: Urs Treier.

Jens-Christian Svenning | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.au.dk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores
24.01.2017 | University of Utah

nachricht New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores

24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Synthetic nanoparticles achieve the complexity of protein molecules

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>