Climate warming by ca. 0.8 degree C between the late-19th and late-20th century, although with some fluctuations, has forced multispecies elevational tree-limit advance by > 100 m for the principal tree species in the Swedish part of the Scandinavian mountain range. Predominantly, these processes imply growth in height of old-established individuals and less frequently upslope migration of new individuals. After a slight retardation during some cooler decades after 1940, a new active phase of tree-limit advance has occurred with a series of exceptionally mild winters and some warm summers during the 1990s. The magnitude of total 20th century tree-limit rise varies with topoclimate and is mainly confined to wind-sheltered and snow-rich segments of the landscape. Thickening of birch tree stands in the "advance belt" has profoundly altered the general character of the subalpine/low alpine landscape and provides a positive feedback loop for further progressive change and resilience to short-term cooling episodes. All upslope tree-limit shifts and associated landscape transformations during the 20th century have occurred without appreciable time lags, which constitutes knowledge fundamental to the generation of realistic models concerning vegetation responses to potential future warming. The new and elevated pine tree-limit may be the highest during the past 4000 14C years. Thus, it is tentatively inferred that the 20th century climate is unusually warm in a late-Holocene perspective.
Natural areas are important interfaces between air quality, the public, science and regulation. In the United States and Canada, national parks received over 315million visits during 2004. Many natural areas have been experiencing decreased visibility, increased ozone (O(3)) levels and elevated nitrogen deposition. Ozone is the most pervasive air pollutant in North American natural areas. There is an extensive scientific literature on O(3) exposure-tree response in chambered environments and, lately, free-air exposure systems. Yet, less is known about O(3) impacts on natural terrestrial ecosystems. To advance scientifically defensible O(3) risk assessment for natural forest areas, species-level measurement endpoints must be socially, economically and ecologically relevant. Exposure-based indices, based on appropriate final endpoints, present an underused opportunity to meet this need. Exposure-plant indices should have a high degree of statistical significance, have high goodness of fit, be biologically plausible and include confidence intervals to define uncertainty. They must be supported by exposure-response functions and be easy to use within an air quality regulation context. Ozone exposure-response indices developed within an ambient air context have great potential for improving risk assessment in natural forest areas and enhancing scientific literacy.
Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) has been used for estimation of the accumulated doses in quartz inclusions obtained from two fired bricks, extracted in July 2004 from a building located in the forested surroundings of the recreational area Novie Bobovichi, the Bryansk Region, Russia. The area was significantly contaminated by Chernobyl fallout with initial (137)Cs ground deposition level of approximately 1.1 MBq m(-2). The accumulated OSL doses in sections of the bricks varied from 141 to 207 mGy, of which between 76 and 146 mGy are attributable to Chernobyl fallout. Using the OSL depth-dose profiles obtained from the exposed bricks and the results from a gamma-ray-survey of the area, the Chernobyl-related cumulative gamma-ray dose for a point detector located in free air at a height of 1m above the ground in the study area was estimated to be ca. 240 mGy for the time period starting on 27 April 1986 and ending on 31 July 2004. This result is in good agreement with the result of deterministic modelling of the cumulative gamma-ray dose in free air above undisturbed ground from the Chernobyl source in the Bryansk Region. Over the same time period, the external Chernobyl-related dose via forest pathway for the most exposed individuals (e.g., forest workers) is estimated to be approximately 39 mSv. Prognosis for the external exposure from 1986 to 2056 is presented and compared with the predictions given by other investigators of the region.
Human activities over the past few centuries have profoundly changed the functioning of the earth system as a whole. These changes are particularly evident in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, where environmental change has been pronounced and rapid. Such changes have implications beyond the region, as they can lead to two important feedback processes: the ice-albedo feedback and the terrestrial carbon cycle-climate feedback. These processes play an exceptionally important role in earth system functioning, particularly because they may switch this century from damping the effects of anthropogenic climate change to accelerating them. Rapid environmental change in the high latitudes also has consequences for issues of direct importance to humans, particularly water resources.
Annual growth ring variations in Arctic trees are often used to reconstruct surface temperature. In general, however, the growth of Arctic vegetation is limited both by temperature and light availability, suggesting that variations in atmospheric transmissivity may also influence tree-ring characteristics. Here we show that Arctic tree-ring density is sensitive to changes in light availability across two distinct phenomena: explosive volcanic eruptions (P
Cites: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Jan 21;100(2):572-612518044
Fungal and bacterial community structure in tussock, intertussock and shrub organic and mineral soils at Toolik Lake, Alaska were evaluated. Community structure was examined by constructing clone libraries of partial 16S and 18S rRNA genes. The soil communities were sampled at the end of the growing season in August 2004 and just after the soils thawed in June 2005. The communities differed greatly between vegetation types, although tussock and intertussock soil communities were very similar at the phyla level. The communities were relatively stable between sample dates at the phyla and subphyla levels, but differed significantly at finer phylogenetic scales. Tussock and intertussock bacterial communities were dominated by Acidobacteria, while shrub soils were dominated by Proteobacteria. These results appear consistent with previous work demonstrating that shrub soils contain an active, bioavailable C fraction, while tussock soils are dominated by more recalcitrant substrates. Tussock fungi communities had higher proportions of Ascomycota than shrub soils, while Zygomycota were more abundant in shrub soils. Recent documentation of increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic suggests that soil microbial communities and their functioning are likely to be altered by climate change.
Fire severity affects both ecosystem N-loss and post-fire N-balance. Climate change is altering the fire regime of interior Alaska, although the effects on Siberian alder (Alnus viridis ssp. fruticosa) annual N-fixation input (kg N ha-1 yr-1) and ecosystem N-balance are largely unknown. We established 263 study plots across two burn scars within the Yukon-Tanana Uplands ecoregion of interior Alaska. Siberian alder N-input was quantified by post-fire age, fire severity, and stand type. We modeled the components of Siberian alder N-input using environmental variables and fire severity within and across burn scars and estimated post-fire N-balance using N-loss (volatilized N) and N-gain [biological N-fixation and atmospheric deposition]. Mean nodule-level N-fixation rate was 70% higher 11-years post-fire (12.88 ± 1.18 µmol N g-1 hr-1) than 40-years post-fire (7.58 ± 0.59 µmol N g-1 hr-1). Structural equation modeling indicated that fire severity had a negative effect on Siberian alder density, but a positive effect on live nodule biomass (g nodule m-2 plant-1). Post-fire Siberian alder N-input was highest in 11-year old moderately burned deciduous stands (11.53 ± 0.22 kg N ha-1 yr-1), and lowest in 11-year old stands that converted from black spruce to deciduous dominance after severe fire (0.06 ± 0.003 kg N ha-1 yr-1). Over a 138-year fire return interval, N-gains in converted black spruce stands are estimated to offset 15% of volatilized N, whereas N-gains in burned deciduous stands likely exceed volatilized N by an order of magnitude. High Siberian alder density and nodule biomass drives N-input in burned deciduous stands, while low N-fixer density (including Siberian alder) limits N-input in high severity black spruce stands not underlain by permafrost. A severe fire regime that converts black spruce stands to deciduous dominance without alder recruitment may induce progressive N-losses which alter boreal forest ecosystem patterns and processes.
Global vegetation models predict that boreal forests are particularly sensitive to a biome shift during the 21st century. This shift would manifest itself first at the biome's margins, with evergreen forest expanding into current tundra while being replaced by grasslands or temperate forest at the biome's southern edge. We evaluated changes in forest productivity since 1982 across boreal Alaska by linking satellite estimates of primary productivity and a large tree-ring data set. Trends in both records show consistent growth increases at the boreal-tundra ecotones that contrast with drought-induced productivity declines throughout interior Alaska. These patterns support the hypothesized effects of an initiating biome shift. Ultimately, tree dispersal rates, habitat availability and the rate of future climate change, and how it changes disturbance regimes, are expected to determine where the boreal biome will undergo a gradual geographic range shift, and where a more rapid decline.
Climate change, higher levels of natural resource demands, and changing land use will likely lead to changes in vegetation configuration in the mountain regions. The aim of this study was to determine if the vegetation cover and composition have changed in the Swedish region of the Scandinavian Mountain Range, based on data from the long-term landscape biodiversity monitoring program NILS (National Inventory of Landscapes in Sweden). Habitat type and vegetation cover were assessed in 1740 systematically distributed permanent field plots grouped into 145 sample units across the mountain range. Horvitz-Thompson estimations were used to estimate the present areal extension of the alpine and the mountain birch forest areas of the mountain range, the cover of trees, shrubs, and plants, and the composition of the bottom layer vegetation. We employed the data from two subsequent 5-year monitoring periods, 2003-2007 and 2008-2012, to determine if there have been any changes in these characteristics. We found that the extension of the alpine and the mountain birch forest areas has not changed between the inventory phases. However, the total tree canopy cover increased in the alpine area, the cover of graminoids and dwarf shrubs and the total cover of field vegetation increased in both the alpine area and the mountain birch forest, the bryophytes decreased in the alpine area, and the foliose lichens decreased in the mountain birch forest. The observed changes in vegetation cover and composition, as assessed by systematic data in a national and regional monitoring scheme, can validate the results of local studies, experimental studies, and models. Through benchmark assessments, monitoring data also contributes to governmental policies and land-management strategies as well as to directed cause and effect analyses.