Global warming – an impeding catastrophe or a new stage of evolution?


Scientists have discovered that in the last 30 years, there has been an increase in the number and size of different plant species in the Arctic tundra. Besides, a bigger area is now covered with plants. The conclusion made by the scientists is that the summers in the Arctic are becoming warmer. Moreover, the process is interdependent – the warming of the climate encourages the growth of plants, which, in turn, encourages changes in a number of natural processes, which cause the Earth’s climate to become warmer. This research was conducted by an international group of scientists, headed by Sarah Elmendorf from the University of British Columbia, based in Vancouver, Canada. The scientists studied the data supplied by 50 research stations, situated in various areas of the Arctic. In all these areas, the picture was virtually the same – dwarf shrub and the grass become taller and spread over increasingly greater areas in Alaska, on Spitsbergen, in Iceland, Greenland, in Canada’s arctic zone and in Scandinavia. The increased plants growth is caused, of course, by global warming. The ice which stayed frozen for many years, if not centuries, is now melting, and, after a while, plants will appear in its place. Scientists even believe that leaf-losing plants, which are more heat-loving that the ‘traditional’ dwarf trees growing in the tundra, could soon oust the latter. It would be wrong to suggest that the climate changes which are taking place in the Arctic tundra have no effect on other regions. Andrey Shmakin from the Institute of Geography says: “If the ice melts – and that is what we are witnessing now – bare land starts to absorb a greater amount of heat. This is the main process that causes the global warming.” “Using the example of what is happening in the tundra, one can see that the balance of heat exchange between the atmosphere, the soil and the plants is now changing,” Vladimir Onipchenko, who chairs the department of plant ecology at the Moscow Lomonosov University, says. “And this is affecting the whole planet. Our observations in the Arctic help us understand more about the mechanism of the greenhouse effect, which worsens as a result of melting Arctic sea ice.” “The melting of ice speeds up the processes of organic decomposition in the soil, and greater amounts of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere,” Mr. Onipchenko says. “This causes even greater warming.” “If the pants of the Arctic tundra continue to grow taller and spread over a larger area, the tundra will start turning into a forest-tundra, where the climate is usually milder,” climate expert Andrey Shmakin says. “However, it’s a very slow process. The melting of sea ice could take many centuries, if not many thousands of years. Besides, it would be wrong to say that the ice is currently melting throughout the Arctic.” A lot of scientists agree that it is probably too early to make global conclusions – any moment, the planet’s climate could bring any surprise. After all, for thousands of years, the Earth has experienced warming and cooling many times – but life on Earth has survived.“Nothing catastrophic is happening,” Andrey Shmakin assures us. “The Earth is just entering a new period of evolution. Certain species of plants and animals might die off, others might come to change them – this is an eternal process.” Source: Voice of Russia

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