New Study Illustrates Shifting Biomes in Alaska
March 08, 2011
Trends in remotely sensed gross productivity (Prs) between 1982 and 2008 and trends in spruce growth since 1982 in Alaska.
Scott Goetz, a senior scientist at WHRC, proposed the study and co-authored the manuscript. He says, “Most people don’t think of high latitudes forests as being drought stressed - and they are not in the traditional sense of having soils dry up and blow away - but their growth is negatively impacted by hot dry air masses and those have increased in recent years. This paper shows those drought impacts are captured in both the satellite and the tree ring record. Of course the tree rings go back in time much further than the satellite observations, which only extend about 30 years, but the changes that we observe from satellites are clearly supported not only by the tree rings but also by carbon isotope analysis of the wood.”
Beck adds that climate driven changes in the disturbance regime, which can rapidly alter forest dynamics and the ability of boreal forests to migrate into current tundra areas, will most likely shape the biome shift in the future.
Researchers from the University of Alaska School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, the Panthéon Sorbonne Archéologie des Amériques, and the Bureau of Land Management participated in the study and co-authored the paper.
Dr. Beck is a vegetation ecologist who specializes in remote sensing and modeling of vegetation in high latitudes. His particular focus is on the effects of climate variability and change on the phenology, distribution, and carbon dynamics of vegetation. Dr. Beck has previously worked as an independent advisor for environmental impact assessment in northern Scandinavia. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Tromsø, Norway, and the Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) in the Netherlands.
Dr. Goetz works on the application of satellite imagery to analyses of environmental change, including monitoring and modeling links between land use change, forest productivity, biodiversity, climate, and human health. Before joining the WHRC, he was on the faculty at the University of Maryland, where he maintains an adjunct associate professor appointment, and was a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland and recently completed a Fulbright-sponsored visiting scientist appointment in Toulouse, France.
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