Sea ice loss and warmer weather are causing major shifts in Arctic vegetation, according to a study published in the journal Science.
The report is based on 10 years of data on the subject and points to a number of key changes currently underway in the remote region of the world.
One such change includes a shift in marine and terrestrial food chains. As sea ice disappears, sea ice algae, the foundation of the marine food web, is quick to follow. As a result, larger plankton appears to be thriving, replacing smaller, but more nutrient-dense plankton, the implications of which are not entirely clear, according to the researchers.
Furthermore, dwindling sea ice has resulted in the disappearance of animal migratory pathways in many cases, even as new ones have opened up for other species. As a result, some animals and plants are facing increased isolation with entire biomes located in the northernmost regions facing complete collapse without the cooling effects of disappearing summer sea ice.
According to co-author Skip Walker, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks's Institute of Arctic Biology, warming soils are giving rise to new and greater amounts of vegetation, as seen in a general greening of the Arctic currently visible from space.
However, the researchers were surprised to find that, despite an overall warming and greening of Arctic lands in North America, some areas in northern Russia and along the Bering Coast of Alaska have recently begun exhibiting cooling trends, paired with a decline in vegetation productivity.
Why this is, the scientists say, is not clear, though they stress that in order to find out, cross-discipline studies are needed.
"It's not a simple story here," Uma Bhatt of UAF's Geophysical Institute said. "I'm an atmospheric scientist and Skip (Walker) is a plant biologist. We have had many conversations to understand each other so we might better understand what's happening in the Arctic."
© 2021 NatureWorldNews.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.