Alaska Faces Major Climate Shift in Coming Decades

Thomas Schueneman

A recently published study from the University of Alaska has found that the majority of Alaska's ecosystems and habitat will be significantly altered from climate change in the coming decades - particularly along the coastal region of the state.

Alaska habitat faces significant changes from global warming

The study shows that more than half of Alaska's ecosystems will look very different by the end of the century. The coast will likely feel more like the moderate climate of western British Columbia than the tundra of today.

In the study, researchers focused on four species with a range of sensitivities to climate change - the Alaska marmot, caribou, the trumpeter swan, and reed canary grass. The marmot could be "wiped out," the study says, while caribou is expected to adapt much more easily to a changing habitat. The trumpeter swan will benefit from longer summers, and the canary reed grass could invade much of the state.

"The most interesting thing is to realize how much potential change we might see in Alaska within our own lifetimes,” said ecologist Nancy Fresco of the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “We’re kind of at the cutting edge of climate change, and the effects are exaggerated in the Far North and the Arctic,” she said.

Read the full report:Connecting Alaska Landscapes into the Future


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