Eurasian Arctic greening reveals teleconnections and the potential for structurally novel ecosystems

Marc Macias-Fauria, Bruce C. Forbes, Pentti Zetterberg, Timo Kumpula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

155 Citations (Scopus)


Arctic warming has been linked to observed increases in tundra shrub cover and growth in recent decades(1-3) on the basis of significant relationships between deciduous shrub growth/biomass and temperature(3-7). These vegetation trends have been linked to Arctic sea-ice declines and thus to the sea-ice/albedo feedback known as Arctic amplification(8). However, the interactions between climate, sea ice and tundra vegetation remain. poorly understood. Here we reveal a 50-year growth response over a >100,000 km(2) area to a rise in summer temperature for alder (Alnus) and willow (Salix), the most abundant shrub genera respectively at and north of the continental treeline. We demonstrate that whereas plant productivity is related to sea ice in late spring, the growing season peak responds to persistent synoptic-scale air masses over West Siberia associated with Fennoscandian weather systems through the Rossby wave train. Substrate is important for biomass accumulation, yet a strong correlation between growth and temperature encompasses all observed soil types. Vegetation is especially responsive to temperature in early summer. These results have significant implications for modelling present and future Low Arctic vegetation responses to climate change, and emphasize the potential for structurally novel ecosystems to emerge from within the tundra zone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-618
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • NDVI
  • WEST

Field of science

  • Ecology, evolutionary biology
  • Environmental sciences


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