Russian boreal forests undergoing vegetation change, study shows
"What we're seeing is a system kicking into overdrive," said co-author Hank Shugart, a U.Va. professor of environmental sciences. "Warming creates more warming."
The researchers used a climate model to assess what would happen if evergreens continued to expand their range farther north and larch species declined. The "positive feedback" cycle of warming promoting warming showed an increase of absorbed surface warming.
"This is not the scenario one would want to see," Shugart said. "It potentially would increase warming on a global scale."
The study is derived from Shuman's Ph.D. dissertation. Shugart served as her adviser. Their paper is co-authored by Thomas Liam O'Halloran, previously a doctoral student in environmental sciences at U.Va. and now a post-doctoral research associate at Oregon State University.
Shuman and Shugart recently received a $987,000, three-year grant from NASA to continue their studies.