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Tsunamis, hurricanes, droughts, disappearing tundra and melting ice caps?global climate change is posing more and more of a challenge to every region of the world. The field that has long been focused on repairing ecosystems that have been damaged and degraded by the human footprint is turning to an unlikely source of information on the scope of global climate change: indigenous peoples. FIRST WORLD CONFERENCE - TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE FOCUSES ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE, SEPTEMBER 13, 2005:

yellowmosstrek.jpgThe boundary, or treeline, between forest and tundra ecosystems is a prominent landscape feature in both Arctic and mountain environments. As global temperatures continue to increase, the treeline is expected to advance but the new research shows that this shift will not always occur gradually but can surge ahead.

treeline.jpgForests of spruce trees and shrubs in parts of northern Canada are taking over what were once tundra landscapes–forcing out the species that lived there. This shift can happen at a much faster speed than scientists originally thought, according to a new University of Alberta study that adds to the growing body of evidence on the effects of climate change.

The mechanism of change appears to be associated with occasional years of extraordinarily high seed production–triggered by hot, dry summers–followed by successive years of warm temperatures favourable for seedling growth and survival.

The changes are of particular importance in these northern regions where First Nation people still rely heavily on the land. Tundra species like caribou and sheep populations, which are important parts of that lifestyle, have declined across southwestern Yukon. As treeline advance, the reflectance of the land surface declines because coniferous trees absorb more sunlight than the tundra. This light energy is then re-emitted to the atmosphere as heat. This sets up a “positive feedback,” the same process that is associated with the rapidly decaying Arctic ice cap. => Source

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