Arctic Tree Growth Releases Carbon Into Atmosphere

by Editor

The Arctic is getting greener as plant growth increases in response to a warmer climate Photo Abbie Freeman

Scientists have discovered an unexpected bi-product of global warming. According to the latest research, the growth of Arctic trees is causing the decomposition of  tundra soils which releases carbon stored in the soil into the atmosphere.

The green house gas is slowly being released into the atmosphere further contributing to global warming.

It was originally thought that the trees would absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, effectively reducing global warming.

Carbon stored in Arctic tundra could be released into the atmosphere by new trees growing in the warmer region, exacerbating climate change, scientists have revealed.  

The Arctic is getting greener as plant growth increases in response to a warmer climate. This greater plant growth means more carbon is stored in the increasing biomass, so it was previously thought the greening would result in more carbon dioxide being taken up from the atmosphere, thus helping to reduce the rate of global warming.

However, research published in Nature Climate Change, shows that, by stimulating decomposition rates in soils, the expansion of forest into tundra in arctic Sweden could result in the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.  

Dr Iain Hartley now based in Geography at the University of Exeter, and lead author of the paper, said: “Determining directly how carbon storage is changing in high-latitude ecosystems is very difficult because the majority of the carbon present is stored below ground in the soils. Our work indicates that greater plant biomass may not always translate into greater carbon storage at the ecosystem level.  

“We need to better understand how the anticipated changes in the distribution of different plant communities in the Arctic affects the decomposition of the large carbon stocks in tundra soils if we are to be able to predict how arctic greening will affect carbon dioxide uptake or release in the future.”

Source: Bit Of Science

Temperature increases have encouraged plant life in the tundra.

As the Arctic temperatures continue to increase the rate of plant growth, the knock on affect has greater implications than originally anticipated. Many scientists fear that the delicate balance has already been upset and will continue to create problems as time goes by.

The polar caps are huge carbon stores for the planet and as the green house gas is released we will start to see global warming increasing at a rate greater than was previously calculated.

Do you see this as another wake up call for humanity to further develop greener technologies and less environmentally damaging forms of energy production?

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