Global Warming Heating Up: Arctic Growing Green

The white, barren arctic is about to get a lot greener, according to a new study.

The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, indicates that over the course of the next several decades, the wooded portions of the Arctic could grow greener by 50 percent.

This new Arctic landscape would be quite different from the one we have come to know. About half of the region's vegetation would shift to a new class. The number of trees would increase dramatically, causing a shift further north in the location of the tree lines. The effect of this change would be dramatic for the planet.

"Such widespread redistribution of Arctic vegetation would have impacts that reverberate through the global ecosystem," lead author Richard Pearson said.

"These impacts would extend far beyond the Arctic region," Pearson added. "For example, some species of birds seasonally migrate from lower latitudes and rely on finding particular polar habitats, such as open space for ground-nesting."

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at about twice the global rate, leading to significant plant growth in recent decades. The researchers, including scientists from the American Museum of Natural History's Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, Colgate University, Cornell University, the University of New York, AT&T Labs-Research and the Woods Hole Research Centre, based their current results on climate scenarios they predict for the 2050s. They created models for predicting the type of vegetation that grows in certain conditions.

While the climatic shift would make the Arctic a greener place to visit, it also holds potentially harmful implications for climate change by reinforcing global warming.

"We show that vegetation distribution shifts will result in an overall positive feedback to climate that  is likely to cause greater warming than has previously been predicted," the study states.

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