Warming trends and sea ice decline are causing vegetation changes in the arctic coastal areas, Indian researchers claim.
Uma Bhatt, an associate professor with University of Alaska Fairbanks's Geophysical Institute, and Skip Walker, contributed to a recent review of research on the response of plants, marine life and animals to declining sea ice in the Arctic.
The review team analyzed 10 years worth of data and research on the subject.
The findings show that sea ice loss is changing marine and terrestrial food chains.
Sea-ice disappearance means a loss of sea-ice algae, the underpinning of the marine food web. Larger plankton is thriving, replacing smaller, but more nutrient dense plankton. What that means exactly is not yet understood.
Above water, loss of sea ice has destroyed old pathways of animal migration across sea ice while opening new pathways for marine animals in others.
Some animals and plants will become more isolated. In the case of the farthest north and coldest parts of the Arctic, entire biomes may be lost without the cooling effects of disappearing summer sea ice.
Walker, a plant biologist, says warming soils provide an opportunity for new vegetation to grow where less vegetation occurred previously.
Bhatt, an atmospheric scientist, examined a 1982-2010 time series of remote sensing data to examine trends in sea ice, land-surface temperatures and changes in the vegetation abundance.
A surprise and puzzling finding shows that despite a general warming and greening of Arctic lands in North America, some areas in northern Russia and along the Bering Sea coast of Alaska are showing recent cooling trends and declines in vegetation productivity.
The study has been published in Science magazine.