Climate change. Increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic

Nature. 2001 May 31;411(6837):546-7. doi: 10.1038/35079180.


The warming of the Alaskan Arctic during the past 150 years has accelerated over the last three decades and is expected to increase vegetation productivity in tundra if shrubs become more abundant; indeed, this transition may already be under way according to local plot studies and remote sensing. Here we present evidence for a widespread increase in shrub abundance over more than 320 km of Arctic landscape during the past 50 years, based on a comparison of historic and modern aerial photographs. This expansion will alter the partitioning of energy in summer and the trapping and distribution of snow in winter, as well as increasing the amount of carbon stored in a region that is believed to be a net source of carbon dioxide.

MeSH terms

  • Arctic Regions
  • Climate*
  • Plants*