Trees in the tundra? The steady rise in temperature is shifting the vegetation zone. This could be fatal for the Siberian cold steppe.

The tundra in Siberia with its special flora and fauna is under massive threat from the climate crisis. As temperatures in the Arctic rise rapidly, the tree line of larch forests is shifting further and further north, crowding out the vast plains of tundra.

This is shown by a study by the Bremerhaven Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) and the University of Potsdam in the specialist journal “eLife”. According to this, with consistent climate protection, around 30 percent of the Siberian tundra area will remain by the middle of the millennium. “In all less favorable development scenarios, there is a risk of a total loss of a unique natural area,” said the AWI.

At least parts could be saved

“The current and future warming will have significant consequences for the Arctic Ocean and the sea ice,” said Ulrike Herzschuh, head of the Polar Terrestrial Environmental Systems Section at the AWI. The environment will also change drastically on land. “In the worst case, the tundra will disappear almost completely by the middle of the millennium.”

The researchers used a computer simulation for the study. Accordingly, a significant reduction in greenhouse gases is needed to save at least parts of the cold steppe. According to the AWI announcement, the environmental protection organization WWF has already called for protective measures and protected areas to be expanded in the affected areas in order to preserve retreat areas for the unique biodiversity of the tundra.