Ongoing climate change throughout Alaska and Northwest Canada has the potential to affect terrestrial ecosystems and the services that they provide to the people of Alaska and the nation. These services include the provisioning of food and fiber by Alaskan ecosystems, the importance of ecosystems to recreation, cultural, and spiritual activities of people in Alaska, and the role Alaska ecosystems play in regulating the climate system.
Assessments of the effects of climate change on ecosystem services has in part been hindered by the lack of tools capable of forecasting how landscape structure and function might change in response to climate change. In Alaska and Northwest Canada, such tools need to consider how ecological processes play out in both space and time. Landscapes may change substantially in time and space because of shifting composition of species dominance (e.g., an increase of shrubs in tundra) and species migration (e.g., treeline advance). These shifts in landscape structure and function may be caused by changes in disturbance regimes (e.g., fire, insects, wind throw), permafrost integrity, and hydrology across the landscape.
In this study, we will develop and apply an ecosystem model for Alaska and Northwest Canada that is capable of forecasting how landscape structure and function might change in response to how climate change influences interactions among disturbance regimes, permafrost integrity, hydrology, vegetation succession and migration. This tool would provide scenarios of changes in landscape structure and function that could be used by resource-specific impact models to assess the effects of climate change on natural resources.
This research is funded by the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCCs) and the Alaska Climate Science Center.
An outline of major research activities by year is available here.
Data resources for the project are available on the SNAP IEM Project Page.
The Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative Project Page also has project information.
Fan, Z., A.D. McGuire, M.R. Turetsky, J.W. Harden, J.M. Waddington, and E.S. Kane. 2013. The response of soil organic carbon of a rich fen peatland in interior Alaska to projected climate change. Global Change Biology. In press. doi:10.1111/gcb.12041.