Shift in Northern Forests Could Increase Global Warming

Publication: Scientific American

Author: Douglas Fischer

03/28/2011 - Boreal forests across the Northern hemisphere are undergoing rapid, transformative shifts as a result of a warming climate that, in some cases, is triggering feedback loops producing even more regional warming, according to several new studies.

Russia's boreal forest - the largest continuous expanse of forest in the world - has seen a transformation in recent years from larch to conifer trees, according to new research by University of Virginia researchers.

In Alaska, where the larch were largely devastated by a disease outbreak in the late '90s, vast swathes of forest are becoming inhospitable to the dominant white and black spruce.


Last week the Pew Environment Group released a report calling for greater controls on development - oil and gas extraction, logging, mining, hydroelectric dams - in Canada's boreal wilderness, which contains 25 percent of the world's wetlands.

The Pew report cited a 2009 study that found Canada's boreal, if left untouched, provides $700 billion in "services" to the world annually, chiefly in carbon storage and subsistence value to First Nation peoples.

Read the full article Shift in Northern Forests Could Increase Global Warming on Scientific American's Web site.

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