Loss in computer simulation: Siberia's tundra could be completely lost

Siberia also means tundra: still, at least.

Loss in computer simulation: Siberia's tundra could be completely lost

Siberia also means tundra: still, at least. Because the unique cold steppe is a hotspot of climate change. New computer simulations show that there may soon be nothing left of the Siberian tundra.

The Siberian tundra with its special flora and fauna is massively threatened by the climate crisis. This is shown by a study by the Bremerhaven Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) and the University of Potsdam, which was published in the specialist journal "eLife". As the temperatures in the Arctic are rising rapidly, the tree line of larch forests is shifting further and further north, crowding out the vast areas of tundra, the researchers write. According to this, with consistent climate protection, around 30 percent of the Siberian tundra area will remain by the middle of the millennium. "In all less favorable development scenarios, there is a risk of a total loss of a unique natural area," said the AWI.

"The current and future warming will have significant consequences for the Arctic Ocean and the sea ice," said Ulrike Herzschuh, head of the Polar Terrestrial Environmental Systems Section at the AWI. The environment will also change drastically on land. "In the worst case, the tundra will almost completely disappear by the middle of the millennium."

The climate crisis is hitting the Arctic particularly hard. The average air temperature in the far north has risen by more than two degrees Celsius over the past 50 years. That is much more than in other regions of the world. This trend will continue. With ambitious measures to reduce greenhouse gases, further Arctic warming could be limited to just under two degrees by the end of the century. However, if emissions remain very high, there is a risk of a dramatic increase in average summer temperatures in the Arctic by 14 degrees Celsius above today's values ​​by 2100.

The researchers used a computer simulation for the study. Accordingly, a significant reduction in greenhouse gases is needed to save at least parts of the cold steppe. According to the AWI announcement, the environmental protection organization WWF has already called for protective measures and protected areas to be expanded in the affected areas in order to preserve retreat areas for the unique biodiversity of the tundra.

The tundra is a special community of plants, one-twentieth of which is found exclusively in the Arctic. According to the AWI, typical species are mountain avens, arctic poppies and dwarf shrubs such as willow and birch, which are characterized by having adapted to the harsh conditions with only short summers and long winters. The tundra is also home to unique animals such as reindeer, lemmings and insects such as the arctic bumblebee.

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