TIME LAGS AND NOVEL ECOSYSTEMS IN RESPONSE TO TRANSIENT CLIMATIC CHANGE IN ARCTIC ALASKA

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Anonymous: 1994, Alaska Land Characteristics Data Set — Interim Land Cover Classification, Eros Data Center and Eros Alaska Field Office, National Mapping Division, U.S. Geological Survey, Anchorage.

  2. Bonan, G. B.: 1990, 'Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling in North American Boreal Forests. II. Biogeographic Patterns’, Can. J. For. Res. 20, 1077–1088.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bonan, G. B., Chapin, F. S., III and Thompson, S. L.: 1995, 'Boreal Forest and Tundra Ecosystems as Components of the Climate System’, Clim. Change 29, 145–167.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bonan, G. B., Pollard, D., and Thompson, S. L.: 1992, 'Effects of Boreal Forest Vegetation on Global Climate’, Nature 359, 716–718.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bond, G., Broecker, W., Johnsen, S., McManus, J., Labeyrie, L., Jouzel, J. and Bonani, G.: 1993, 'Correlations between Climate Records from North Atlantic Sediments and Greenland Ice’, Nature 365, 143–147.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Campbell, I. D. and McAndrews, J. H.: 1993, 'Forest Disequilibrium Caused by Rapid Little Ice Age Cooling’, Nature 366, 336–338.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Chalita, S. and Le Treut, H.: 1994, 'The Albedo of Temperate and Boreal Forest and the Northern Hemisphere Climate: A Sensitivity Experiment Using the LMD GCM’, Clim. Dyn. 10, 231–240.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Charney, J. G., Quirk, W. J., Chow, S.-H. and Kornfield, J.: 1977, 'A Comparative Study of Effects of Albedo Change on Drought in Semiarid Regions’, J. Atmos. Sci. 34, 1366–1385.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Clark, J. S.: 1988, 'Effect of Climate Change on Fire Regimes in Northwestern Minnesota’, Nature 334, 233–235.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Davis, M. B.: 1981, 'Quaternary History and the Stability of Forest Communities’, in West, D. C., Shugart, H. H., and Botkin, D. B. (eds.), Forest Succession: Concepts and Application, Springer-Verlag, New York, pp. 132–153.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Davis, M. B. and Botkin, D. B.: 1985, 'Sensitivity of Cool-Temperate Forests and Their Fossil Pollen Record to Rapid Temperature Change’, Quater. Res. 23, 327–340.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Foley, J. A., Kutzbach, J. E., Coe, M. T. and Levis, S.: 1994, 'Feedbacks between Climate and Boreal Forests during the Holocene Epoch’, Nature 371, 52–54.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Graumlich, L. J.: 1991, 'Subalpine Tree Growth, Climate, and Increasing CO2: An Assessment of Recent Growth Trends’, Ecology 72, 1–11.

    Google Scholar 

  14. GRIP Members: 1993, 'Climatic Instability during the Last Interglacial Period Recorded in the GRIP Ice Core’, Nature 364, 203–207.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hogg, E. H. and Hurdle, P. A.: 1995, 'The Aspen Parkland in Western Canada: A Dry-Climate Analogue for the Future Boreal Forest?’, in Apps, M. J. and Price, D. T. (eds.), Boreal Forests and Global Change, Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 391–400.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Hopkins, D. M., Matthews, J. V., Schweger, C. E., and Young, S. B. (eds.): 1982, Paleoecology of Beringia, Academic Press, New York, p. 489.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Innes, J. L.: 1991, 'High-Altitude and High-Latitude Tree Growth in Relation to Past, Present and Future Global Climate Change’, Holocene 1, 168–173.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Kauppi, P. E., Mielikäinen, K., and Kuusela, K.: 1992, 'Biomass and Carbon Budget of European Forests, 1971 to 1990’, Science 256, 70–74.

    Google Scholar 

  19. King, G. A. and Neilson, R. P.: 1992, 'The Transient Response of Vegetation to Climate Change: A Potential Source of CO2 to the Atmosphere’, Water Air Soil Pollut. 64, 365–383.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Kirschbaum, M. U. F. and Fischlin, A.: 1996, 'Climate Change Impacts on Forests’, in Watson, R. T., Zinyowera, M. C., and Moss, R. H. (eds.), Climate Change 1995. Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change: Scientific-Technical Analyses, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 95–129.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Lawrence, W. T. and Oechel, W. C.: 1983, 'Effects of Soil Temperature on the Carbon Exchange of Taiga Seedlings. II. Photosynthesis, Respiration, and Conductance’, Can. J. For. Res. 13, 850–859.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Lloyd, A. H., Armbruster, W. S., and Edwards, M. E.: 1994, 'Ecology of a Steppe-Tundra Gradient in Interior Alaska’, J. Veg. Sci. 5, 897–912.

    Google Scholar 

  23. MacDonald, G. M., Edwards, T. W. D., Moser, K. A., Pienitz, R., and Smol, J. P.: 1993, 'Rapid Response of Treeline Vegetation and Lakes to Past Climate Warming’, Nature 361, 243–246.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Maxwell, B.: 1992, 'Arctic Climate: Potential for Change under Global Warming’, in Chapin, F. S., III, Jefferies, R. L., Reynolds, J. F., Shaver, G. R., and Svoboda, J. (eds.), Arctic Ecosystems in a Changing Climate: An Ecophysiological Perspective, Academic Press, San Diego, California, U.S.A., pp. 11–34.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Neilson, R. P.: 1993, 'Transient Ecotone Response to Climatic Change: Some Conceptual and Modelling Approaches’, Ecol. Appl. 3, 385–395.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Neilson, R. P., King, G. A., and Koerper, G.: 1992, 'Toward a Rule-Based Biome Model’, Landsc. Ecol. 7, 27–43.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Nicholls, N., Gruza, G. V., Jouzel, J., Karl, T. R., Ogallo, L. A., and Parker, D. E.: 1996, 'Observed Climate Variability and Change’, in Houghton, J. T., Meira Filho, L. G., Callander, B. A., Harris, N., Kattenberg, A., and Maskell, K. (eds.), Climate Change 1995. The Science of Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 133–192.

    Google Scholar 

  28. NOAA: 1993, 'Climatological Data Alaska’, Climatological Data Alaska 79(13), 6–22.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Noble, I. R.: 1993, 'A Model of the Responses of Ecotones to Climate Change’, Ecol. Appl. 3, 396–403.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Noble, I. R. and Slatyer, R. O.: 1980, 'The Use of Vital Attributes to Predict Successional Changes in Plant Communities Subject to Recurrent Disturbances’, Vegetatio 43, 5–21.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Oechel, W. C., Hastings, S. J., Vourlitis, G., Jenkins, M., Riechers, G., and Grulke, N.: 1993, 'Recent Change of Arctic Tundra Ecosystems from a Net Carbon Dioxide Sink to a Source’, Nature 361, 520–523.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Pastor, J. and Post, W. M.: 1988, 'Responses of Northern Forests to CO2-Induced Climate Change’, Nature 334, 55–58.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Payette, S. and Gagnon, R.: 1985, 'Late Holocene Deforestation and Tree Regeneration in the Forest-Tundra of Quebec’, Nature 313, 570–572.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Pielke, R. A. and Vidale, P. L.: 1996, 'The Boreal Forest and the Polar Front’, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. 100D, 25755–25758.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Prentice, K. C. and Fung, I. Y.: 1990, 'The Sensitivity of Terrestrial Carbon Storage to Climate Change’, Nature 346, 48–51.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Rastetter, E.B.: 1996, 'Validating Models of Ecosystem Response to Global Change’, BioScience 46, 190–198.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Schulze, E.-D.: 1989, 'Air Pollution and Forest Decline in a Spruce (Picea Abies) Forest’, Science 244, 776–783.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Selkregg, L. L.: 1974a, Alaska Regional Profiles. Volume 5 Northwest Region, University of Alaska Arctic Information and Data Center, Anchorage, p. 265.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Selkregg, L. L.: 1974b, Alaska Regional Profiles. Volume 6. Yukon Region, University of Alaska Arctic Information and Data Center, Anchorage, p. 346.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Shugart, H. H., Smith, T. M., and Post, W. M.: 1992, 'The Potential for Application of Individual-Based Simulation Models for Assessing the Effects of Global Change’, Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 23, 15–38.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Shugart, H. H. and West, D. C.: 1980, 'Forest Succession Models’, BioScience 30, 308–313.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Shukla, J., Nobre, C., and Sellers, P.: 1990, 'Amazon Deforestation and Climate Change’, Science 247, 1322–1325.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Sirois, L., Bonan, G. B., and Shugart, H. H.: 1994, 'Development of a Simulation Model of the Forest-Tundra Transition Zone of Northeastern Canada’, Can. J. For. Res. 24, 697–706.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Smith, T. M. and Shugart, H. H.: 1993, 'The Transient Response of Terrestrial Carbon Storage to a Perturbed Climate’, Nature 361, 523–526.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Solomon, A. M.: 1986, 'Transient Response of Forest to CO2-Induced Climate Change: Simulation Modeling Experiments in Eastern North America’, Oecologia 68, 567–579.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Starfield, A. M. and Chapin, F. S., III: 1996, 'Model of Transient Changes in Arctic and Boreal Vegetation in Response to Climate and Land Use Change’, Ecol. Appl. 6, 842–864.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Starfield, A. M., Cummings, D. H. M., Taylor, R. D., and Quadling, M. S.: 1993, 'A Frame-Based Paradigm for Dynamic Ecosystem Models’, A I Applica. 7, 1–13.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Steffen, W. L., Cramer, W., Plöchl, M., and Bugmann, H.: 1996, 'Global Vegetation Models: Incorporating Transient Changes to Structure and Composition’, J. Veg. Sci. 7, 321–328.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Sykes, M. and Prentice, I. C.: 1995, 'Boreal Forest Futures: Modelling the Controls on Tree Species Range Limits and Transient Responses to Climate Change’, Water, Air Soil Pollut. 82, 415–428.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Thomas, G. and Rowntree, P. R.: 1992, 'The Boreal Forests and Climate’, Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc. 118, 469–497.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Yurtsev, B. A.: 1982, 'Relics of the Xerophyte Vegetation of Beringia in Northeastern Asia’, in Hopkins, D. M., Matthews, J. V., Jr., Schweger, C. E., and Young, S. B. (eds.), Paleoecology of Beringia, Academic Press, New York, pp. 157–177.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Zasada, J. C., Sharik, T. L., and Nygren, M.: 1992, 'The Reproductive Process in Boreal Forest Trees’, in Shugart, H. H., Leemans, R., and Bonan, G. B. (eds.), A Systems Analysis of the Global Boreal Forest, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 85–125.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Zimov, S. A., Chuprynin, V. I., Oreshko, A. P., Chapin, F. S., III, Reynolds, J. F., and Chapin, M. C.: 1995, 'Steppe-Tundra Transition: An Herbivore-Driven Biome Shift at the End of the Pleistocene’, Am. Nat. 146, 765–794.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

CHAPIN, F.S., STARFIELD, A.M. TIME LAGS AND NOVEL ECOSYSTEMS IN RESPONSE TO TRANSIENT CLIMATIC CHANGE IN ARCTIC ALASKA. Climatic Change 35, 449–461 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005337705025

Download citation

Keywords

  • Pleistocene
  • Boreal Forest
  • Climatic Warming
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Vegetation Change