Winter biological processes could help convert arctic tundra to shrubland
|Title||Winter biological processes could help convert arctic tundra to shrubland|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2005|
|Authors||Sturm, M, Schimel, J, Michaelson, G, Welker, JM, Oberbauer, SF, Liston, GE, Fahnestock, J, Romanovsky, VE|
|Keywords||active layer, air-temperature, climate change, climate-change, cold season, high-latitudes, land-cover change, mesic grassland, microbes, microbial activity, nitrogen mineralization, shrubs, snow, snow-depth, tundra|
In arctic Alaska, air temperatures have warmed 0.5 degrees Celsius (degreesC) per decade for the past 30 years, winter. Over the same period, shrub abundance has increased, perhaps a harbinger of a conversion of tundra to shrubland. Evidence suggests that winter biological processes are contributing to this conversion through a positive feedback that involves the snow-holding capacity of shrubs, the insulating properties of snow, a soil layer that has a high water content because it overlies nearly impermeable permafrost, and hardy microbes that can maintain metabolic activity at temperatures of -6degreesC or lower. Increasing shrub abundance leads to deeper snow, which promotes higher winter soil temperatures, greater microbial activity and more plant-available nitrogen. High levels of soil nitrogen favor shrub growth the follow- summer. With climate models predicting continued warming, large areas of tundra could become converted to shrubland, with winter processes like those described here possibly playing a critical role.
|URL||<Go to ISI>://000226343000009|