Until now, low-growing grasses and dwarf shrubs have dominated the Arctic tundra. In the face of the challenging global warming conditions, these Arctic plants now grow taller, according to an international study carried out by the Higher Council for Scientific Research. The scientists have discovered that new and taller Arctic plants are gradually taking over the other grasses in these regions. As a result, the altitude of the native tundra plant communities has grown globally over the previous 30 years.
The research was published in the Nature journal and was carried out by about 130 biologists have participated and which is headed by scientists from the German Centre for Biodiversity and Climate Research Senckenberg, Germany, and the German Centre for Comprehensive Biodiversity Research (Germany).
“The increase in height that we have observed in vegetation has been recorded in almost all regions,” says Anne Bjorkman, the study’s leading author.
Arctic plants are now growing taller than usual due to global warming
The researchers have determined that global warming is the cause of the increase in plant growth in the Arctic regions. Over the past 30 years, the Arctic temperatures have climbed by about one degree Celsius in the summer and 1.5 degrees Celsius in the winter, being the fastest-growing temperature rates due to global warming.
An in-depth examination has revealed that not only the plants grow taller at higher temperatures, but the existing plant communities have also been altered. Nadja Ruger, the co-author of this new study, and a senior researcher at the German Center for Comprehensive Biodiversity Research and the University of Leipzig notes that “the tallest plant species have spread across the tundra.”
“If the taller Arctic plants continue to expand at the current rate, the height of the plant community could increase from 20% to 60% by the end of the century,” said Anne Bjorkman
Surprisingly, researchers found no evidence that this “invasion” of taller Arctic plants is currently leading to a decline in shorter grass species.