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Climate change could doom Alaska's tundra

f shrubs, and an extremely short growing season. But it also supports brown bear, wolf, wolverine, caribou, arctic hare, mink, weasel, and lemming, and millions of migrating waterfowl. In summer it can feature thousands of lakes and large marshy areas.

According to Bachelet, despite some of the criticisms aimed at them, climate models appear to work better and achieve higher accuracy over longer rather than shorter periods of time.

"If you ask these models to predict exactly what the global climate will be in the summertime five years from now, that's much more difficult because of the natural, short-term variations in weather and climate," Bachelet said. "But based on everything we've learned, when we predict what's going to happen during a 20-year period about a century from now, we can be fairly confident. We also test these models by running them backward into the past, and the results are quite accurate."

Bachelet and her colleagues at OSU and the U.S. Forest Service have developed the Dynamic Global Vegetation Model MC1, an improved way of predicting what certain climate scenarios will mean in terms in of vegetation growth, plant and soil processes, carbon storage or emissions, forest fire, and other important ecological effects.

The latest simulations with this model were done with Alaska as a prelude to work with much of the world's Arctic region, Bachelet said. "Some of this is not that surprising, the winters in Alaska are already getting milder and the summers warmer," Bachelet said. "Were already seeing glacial melting, movement in fish migrations, Inuits who are having to change their fishing and hunting habits because of melting ice."

But any changes so far pale in comparison of what's to come, and fairly soon, Bachelet said. Among the predictions:

  • Boreal mixed forests could yield to a maritime and temperate conifer forest much like those of southeast Alaska, and
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Contact: Dominique Bachelet
bachelet@fsl.orst.edu
360-570-2015
Oregon State University
3-Aug-2004


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