Climate Change in Arctic Tundra: From Wildfire to Songbirds

April 6, 2011
Part of the 2011 Public Lecture Series

Featuring

Earth and Environmental Sciences
Lamont Assistant Research Professor

The effect of rising summer air temperatures on Arctic flora and fauna may be particularly dramatic because of the low temperatures to which life has adapted in this region. In 2007, a vast and severe wildfire occurred in the Alaskan tundra—a characteristically wet ecosystem. The event was unprecedented, but as global warming continues, tundra fires of this magnitude may become increasingly common. Scientists make use of satellite imagery to understand the ecological consequences of such fires on these remote landscapes. Arctic warming also alters the timing of spring snowmelt and vegetation growth, triggering a cascade of changes that may impact the songbirds that winter in our backyards and migrate to the Alaskan tundra to breed every summer.