TIME LAGS AND NOVEL ECOSYSTEMS IN RESPONSE TO TRANSIENT CLIMATIC CHANGE IN ARCTIC ALASKA
- Cite this article as:
- CHAPIN, F.S. & STARFIELD, A.M. Climatic Change (1997) 35: 449. doi:10.1023/A:1005337705025
We use a frame-based simulation model to estimate future rate of advance of the arctic treeline in response to scenarios of transient changes in temperature, precipitation, and fire regime. The model is simple enough to capture both the short-term direct response of vegetation to climate and the longer-term interactions among vegetation, fire, and insects that are important features of dynamic vegetation models. We estimate a 150–250 yr time lag in forestation of Alaskan tundra following climatic warming and suggest that, with rapid warming under dry conditions, there would be significant development of boreal grassland-steppe, a novel ecosystem type that was common during the late Pleistocene and today occurs south of the boreal forest in continental regions. Together, the time lag and grassland development would delay the positive feedback of vegetation change to climatic warming, providing a window of opportunity to control fossil fuel emissions, the primary cause of this warming.