Media New Atlas reports that everything from the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef to the accelerated growth of vegetation in the Himalayas is changing the natural environment as the climate continues to warm. Global warming is also contributing to the spread of lush woody plants on the world’s savannahs and tundra, a large-scale study has shown, which is bad news for the environment.
The study, led by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, was described as “the largest study of the largest global wood cover change of its kind to date.” It involves looking at more than 1,000 logie plant cover records from 899 sites on six different continents, as well as temperature and rainfall data to determine how climate change drives landscape change. The analysis also illustrates the role of wildfires and animal grazing patterns in these shifts.
According to the team, bush cover in Arctic tundra across Canada, the United States, Greenland, Europe and Russia has increased by 20 percent compared with 50 years ago. During the same period, the coverage of shrubs and trees in the world’s savannahs in Australia, the African plains and South America increased by 30 per cent.
These savannahs and tundra account for 40 per cent of the world’s land area. Because wooded plants store carbon as fuel for fire and have a negative impact on the reflection of solar heat back into space, scientists believe these profound changes in the landscape could have a significant impact on carbon concentrations in the global climate and atmosphere.
At a more local level, changes may affect biodiversity in these areas, while increased shrub cover may lead to higher soil temperatures. This can have a profound effect on permafrost under the tundra, which contains a lot of carbon that melts and is released into the atmosphere.
“This study shows the profound effects of climate change on the planet,” said Mariana Garc?a Criado of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences. The discovery of responses to different landscapes requires collaboration between scientists and local people to better understand the changes we see and their impact from different perspectives. “
The study was published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.