Climate change may make Greenland greener by 2100

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 21:10

London: Climate change could lead to extensive growth of trees and bushes in large parts of Greenland - that are currently ice-free - by the end of the century, scientists predict.

Scientists expect the future climate to become warmer, and that this will apply to the Arctic in particular.

The temperature in the Arctic is expected to increase considerably more than the average on Earth, according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change average scenario (A1B).

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, researchers said.

An international research group including Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, from Aarhus University in Denmark 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.

"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," researchers said.

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, researchers said.

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.

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

The researchers conclude that southern Greenland and the area around Kangerlussuaq 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," said Svenning.


First Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 21:10
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