Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study: changing climate prompts boreal forest shift

12.06.2015

With warming summer temperatures across Alaska, white spruce tree growth in Interior Alaska has declined to record low levels, while the same species in Western Alaska is growing better than ever measured before.

The findings are the result of a study led by University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Extension researcher Glenn Juday, Claire Alix of the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, and Tom Grant, formerly an adjunct faculty member at UAF. Their findings were recently published online by the journal Forest Ecology and Management.


Floodplain white spruce stand along lower Yukon River, late at night near the summer solstice in 2007.

Courtesy of Photo by Claire Alix

'For the first time across a major forest region, we have real data showing that biome shift has started,' Juday said. 'This is not a scenario model, or a might, or a maybe. The boreal forest in Interior Alaska is very near dying from unsuitably warm temperatures. The area in Western Alaska where the forest transitions to tundra is now the productive heart of the boreal forest.'

The paper is the result of 10 years of research. Juday and Alix gathered white spruce tree cores and disks from 540 trees in 36 stands along the Yukon, Tanana and Kuskokwim rivers. They started in easternmost Alaska and sampled downriver to the western edge of the boreal forest near the Bering Sea. The research required the team to travel hundreds of miles down some of the most pristine large rivers left on Earth. Sam Demientieff, a longtime Interior river traveler and Alaska Native leader, provided much of the river transportation and expertise required to navigate the silt-filled water and constantly shifting channels.

The researchers took two measurements from each annual growth ring of the 100 to 250-year-old trees, then analyzed the nearly quarter-million measurements to determine how much the trees grew each year. They then compared that growth to temperature data from eastern, Interior and Western Alaska historical records and weather stations. In addition, they drew on previous scientists' work chronicling tree growth and temperature back more than two centuries.

They found that in Interior Alaska, as summer temperatures rose, the growth of the trees slowed. Meanwhile, in Western Alaska, which is also warming, the trees are growing more rapidly.

White spruce trees thrive within an optimal temperature range. The long-term average temperature in Interior Alaska used to be at the high end of that optimum. In Western Alaska, the average temperature was below or at the low end of the optimal temperature range.

In the mid-1970s, temperatures suddenly increased and have cycled around a higher average since. Interior Alaska's average temperature became warmer than the trees' ideal range, and growth slowed. Meanwhile, the average temperature in Western Alaska increased to more closely match optimal conditions, which increased growth.

'One aspect of the study that makes the results especially clear is that the trees were all growing in the same environment along the big rivers,' Juday said. 'In many transect studies, lots of variables change across the area studied. In ours, the main thing that changed was the climate, from the hot, dry summers of the Interior, to the cooler, wetter climate near the coast.'

Juday notes that their findings don't mean the boreal forest is going away. It's simply shifting away from lowlands in Interior Alaska to higher elevations and the western part of the state, he said. 'The movement of an entire biome is often hypothesized in models of probable future climate, but the Alaska boreal forest is actually shifting today, and the process is well underway.'

###

Contacts:

Glenn Juday
907-474-6717
gpjuday@alaska.edu

Claire Alix
Claire.Alix@univ-paris1.fr
33-1-46-69-26-51

Note to editors: downloadable photos are available online at http://news.uaf.edu/borealforest2015.

Media Contact

Marmian Grimes
mlgrimes@alaska.edu
907-474-7902

 @uafairbanks

http://www.uaf.edu 

Marmian Grimes | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>