Latest climate complaint: Arctic plants are getting “too tall”

Plants in the Arctic are growing taller because of climate change, according to research from a global scientific collaboration.

While the region is usually thought of as a vast, desolate landscape of ice, it is in fact home to hundreds of species of low-lying shrubs, grasses and other plants that play a critical role in carbon cycling and energy balance.

Now, a team of experts led by the University of Edinburgh has discovered that the effects of climate change are behind an increase in plant height across the tundra over the past 30 years.

Species spread

As well as the Arctic’s native plants growing in stature, in the southern reaches of the Arctic taller species of plants are spreading across the tundra.

Vernal sweetgrass, which is common in lowland Europe, has now moved in to sites in Iceland and Sweden.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) in Frankfurt led the international team of 130 scientists in the project, funded by NERC.

More than 60,000 data observations from hundreds of sites across the Arctic and alpine tundra were analysed to produce the findings, which were published in Nature.

Fast-changing

Rapid climate warming in the Arctic and alpine regions is driving changes in the structure and composition of plant communities.

This has important consequences for how this vast and sensitive ecosystem functions.

Arctic regions have long been a focus for climate change research, as the permafrost lying under the northern latitudes contains 30 to 50 percent of the world’s soil carbon.

Taller plants trap more snow, which insulates the underlying soil and prevents it from freezing as quickly in winter.

An increase in taller plants could speed up the thawing of this frozen carbon bank, and lead to an increase in the release of greenhouse gases.

“We found that the increase in height didn’t happen in just a few sites, it was nearly everywhere across the tundra. If taller plants continue to increase at the current rate, the plant community height could increase by 20 to 60 percent by the end of the century.”

Anne BjorkmanClimate Research Centre (BiK-F), Frankfurt

 

Quantifying the link between environment and plant traits is critical to understanding the consequences of climate change, but such research has rarely extended into the Northern hemisphere, home to the planet’s coldest tundra ecosystems. This is the first time that a biome-scale study has been carried out to get to the root of the critical role that plants play in this rapidly warming part of the planet.

Isla Myers-SmithSchool of Geosciences

The team now has a comprehensive data set on Arctic tundra plants, collected from sites in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.

Alpine sites in the European Alps and Colorado Rockies were also included in the study.

The team assessed relationships between temperature, soil moisture and key traits that represent plants’ form and function.

Plant height and leaf area were analysed and tracked, along with specific leaf area, leaf nitrogen content and leaf dry matter content, as well as woodiness and evergreenness.

Surprisingly, only height was found to increase strongly over time.

Plant traits were strongly influenced by moisture levels in addition to temperature.

While most climate change models and research have focused on increasing temperatures, our research has shown that soil moisture can play a much greater role in changing plant traits than we previously thought. We need to understand more about soil moisture in the Arctic. Precipitation is likely to increase in the region, but that’s just one factor that affects soil moisture levels.

Isla Myers-SmithSchool of Geosciences

This research is a vital step in improving our understanding of how Arctic and alpine vegetation is responding to climate change. Shrub growth and expansion could have a profound impact not only on the Arctic ecosystem, but also further afield if it results in an increase in the release of greenhouse gases.”

Helen BeadmanHead of Polar, Climate and Weather, Natural Environment Research Council
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113 thoughts on “Latest climate complaint: Arctic plants are getting “too tall”

    • Where are the muskox who are supposed to keep the plants short? OMG, we have an environmental muskox disaster on our hands. It’s way worse than we thought.

          • I hadn’t considered the elves. If you are sufficiently short, tall grass could be a problem. From my youth I remember a news story about a group of pygmy warriors who got lost in tall grass.

            I assume that Santa runs a tight ship. That means that a few lost elves could seriously upset the Christmas delivery schedule.

            The alarmist narrative is that everything caused by global warming is bad. It is dead easy to generate scare stories.

    • If taller plants continue to increase at the current rate, the plant community height could increase by 20 to 60 percent by the end of the century.”

      A few of the several hundred different Arctic tundra plants are:

      •Bearberry. Bearberry
      •Labrador Tea. …
      •Diamond Leaf. …
      •Arctic Moss. …
      •Arctic Willow. …
      •Caribou Moss. …
      •Tufted Saxifrage. …
      •Pasque Flower.
      Read more @ https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/various-tundra-plants.php

      Most every Arctic tundra plant is considered to be “ground cover” which means they are way less than 12” in height at maturity.

      So, iffen the mature height of a sparse few of them increases by 60%, ……. it won’t mean diddly poop in the grand scheme of naturally occurring events.

        • the change in species composition.

          Kristi, are you per chance inferring that exacerbated Artic warming will spawn an upsurge in random horizontal gene transfers between different plant species?

          Or that, for instance, iffen all the permafrost melts, the Labrador Tea will outgrow and crowd-out the Tufted Saxifrage, causing its demise (extinction)?

          • Samuel,

            No, I’m referring to this:

            “As well as the Arctic’s native plants growing in stature, in the southern reaches of the Arctic taller species of plants are spreading across the tundra.

            “Vernal sweetgrass, which is common in lowland Europe, has now moved in to sites in Iceland and Sweden.”

            Species composition doesn’t have anything to do with genetic exchange. Furthermore, species composition can change without anything going extinct, since it refers to relative abundance of different species, and not just whether they are there or not. Changes in abundance of some plant species can in turn affect the abundance of the animals that rely on them.

            Species composition depends on competitive relationships, environment (including climate), extirpation (local species loss) and the invasion of a community by other species.

          • Kristi Silber – September 29, 2018 at 1:55 pm

            No, I’m referring to this:

            “As well as the Arctic’s native plants growing in stature, in the southern reaches of the Arctic taller species of plants are spreading across the tundra.

            Kristi, those “taller species of plants” have a lot of “spreadin” anda ”growin” ta do before they “ketchup” with what used to be, …… to wit:

            Holocene Treeline History and Climate Change Across Northern Eurasia

            Radiocarbon-dated macrofossils are used to document Holocene treeline history across northern Russia (including Siberia). Boreal forest development in this region commenced by 10,000 yr B.P. Over most of Russia, forest advanced to or near the current arctic coastline between 9000 and 7000 yr B.P. and retreated to its present position by between 4000 and 3000 yr B.P. Forest establishment and retreat was roughly synchronous across most of northern Russia. Treeline advance on the Kola Peninsula, however, appears to have occurred later than in other regions.

            During the period of maximum forest extension, the mean July temperatures along the northern coastline of Russia may have been 2.5° to 7.0°C warmer than modern.

            Read more @ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033589499921233

          • Samuel,

            I don’t understand your point. Yes, the community was different thousands of years ago – maybe even hundreds of years ago. That doesn’t mean that changes over the course of decades won’t have an impact. The rate of change is often more important than change itself. For instance, if there is a large population of bears that depend on berries, and berry-producing plants are outcompeted by grasses, it’s better if change in the plant community happens slowly. That way, the bear population can get smaller over time and move to new areas rather than starve to death en masse.

            I’ve always maintained that slowing climate change is more important and realistic than stopping it.

          • Kristi, …… bears are omnivores.

            Iffen they depended on berries and berry-producing plants, … they would all starve to death within one year …… because there is not enough seasonal berries to sustain them thru the fall, winter and early spring seasons.

  1. I am assuming this is great news for environmentalists who always break out the sad face when there is any loss of vegetation. At least that’s what my model predicts. It would take a really odd and circuitous cerebral exercise to interpret plant success as bad for environment. No responsible scientist would stoop so low – would they?

    • The whole alarmism is about how horrible plant growth is. Remember the hockey stick? Mann was using tree rings (carefully cherry-picked) as a proxy for temperature. Well you do not mow your lawns in January, but do you mow more often in the moderate Spring/Fall or in the heat waves of July and August? Yes, plant growth depends on many things, but plant growth IS a proxy for temperature. Which is why I hate the alarmists’ guts. What are they saying?

    • Andy,

      This isn’t a matter of “plant success,” it’s about species invading an ecosystem that formerly didn’t have them. I don’t know the particulars of this story, but I can discuss it from a hypothetical standpoint, just for illustration. If invading grasses begin to displace the plants of the tundra ecosystem, it could have an effect not just on climate variables, but on the animals that depend on what’s there. Tall grasses could shade and outcompete berry-producing plants, for instance, having an effect on populations of bears and other berry-eating animals.

      This is not at all an “odd and circuitous cerebral exercise,” it is a very obvious idea to those who have a particular background. My area of expertise is in invasive plants – it’s the way I think. It’s not a matter of environmentalism, it’s science. Just because it’s not the way you think doesn’t mean it’s “stooping low” or irresponsible.

      • I should have said, “it’s *also* about species invading…”

        I emphasize that I was hypothesizing about a particular situation, not saying that this is what’s happening.

        It would be much more informative to read the paper upon which this PR is based. I don’t trust PRs.

        Been looking for the paper, but it seems like often the PR is release before the paper is published.

        • Kristi -Silber – September 28, 2018 at 9:19 pm

          My area of expertise is in invasive plants – it’s the way I think. It’s not a matter of environmentalism, it’s science.

          I should have said, “it’s *also* about species invading…”

          Kristi, your “invasive plants” argument for the Arctic just might be a tad premature because I’m pretty sure you really don’t have a clue as to what the most abundant Arctic species were that is/was responsible for this sequestered carbon, …….. to wit:

          Excerpted from above published article:

          Arctic regions have long been a focus for climate change research, as the permafrost lying under the northern latitudes contains 30 to 50 percent of the world’s soil carbon.

          Is now what is growing in the Artic …… the “invasive species”, … or the “species invading”, …… “Yes” or “No”?

          • Samuel,

            “Is now what is growing in the Artic …… the “invasive species”, … or the “species invading”, …… “Yes” or “No”?”

            Yes, some of them – those species that have moved in “recently” (within the last several decades) in response to changed conditions. Some invasive species enter a community because they were introduced by people, others enter because changed conditions allow it (usually following disturbance to the community, either natural or human). In this way, even species native to a region can become “invasive.”

            I wasn’t arguing anything except against Andy’s comment that “It would take a really odd and circuitous cerebral exercise to interpret plant success as bad for environment.” I was outlining a hypothesis to demonstrate that this isn’t true at all – to me it’s an obvious idea that “plant success” is not necessarily a good thing; it depends on what plants are successful, and their impact on the plant, animal and microbial community as a whole. It had nothing to do with change in carbon sequestration, though that could be another effect of community change. For instance, if C4 grasses become common, that could lower sequestration potential.

            In this case, vernal sweet grass appears to be invasive. It’s possible it was there in the distant past, but as long as it’s been gone long enough for the community to adapt to being without it, it can be considered an “invader.”

            One definition of “invasive species” includes the idea that it capable of changing the structure and/or function of the community. “Structure” can refer either to the physical geometry or to the relative species abundance; “function” to its ecological attributes or its value to humans. This is how I’m using “invasive” in my hypothesized scenario. I don’t know whether vernal sweet grass in this case actually does so, but it is a (harmful) invasive in some communities due to its highly competitive nature.
            https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/93023

            It also contains coumarins, with are toxic to livestock, though it seems the feed needs to be composed mostly of this plant to induce mortality. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6194608, for instance)

          • Kristi Silber – September 29, 2018 at 3:25 pm

            One definition of “invasive species” includes the idea that it capable of changing the structure and/or function of the community.

            Kristi, given your above “definition”, every plant species that ever “took root” on the surface of the earth is therefore deemed an “invasive species”.

            It is of my learned opinion that a professional scientist shouldn’t be choosing the “winners” and ”losers” in/of species proliferation because Mother Nature is capable of doing that for herself via the means described as “survival of the fittest”.

            So, instead of referring to the species one least prefers as the “invasive species”, maybe they should be impartially referred to as the “fittest species”. 🙂 🙂 🙂

          • Samuel,

            “Kristi, given your above ‘definition’, every plant species that ever ‘took root’ on the surface of the earth is therefore deemed an ‘invasive species’.”

            No, that’s not true.

            Take the example of the emerald ash borer. It is killing millions of ash trees. This opens up large gaps in the forest and leaves a lot of dead wood on the ground. Gaps allow light and wind penetration, drying out the understory, increasing the potential for more widespread and intense wildfire. It also facilitates the spread of invasive plants. Some invasive plants have the ability to completely change successional processes so that native forest trees can’t grow. This happens through competition, allelopathy (adding chemicals to the soil that inhibit the growth of other species), changes in soil (sometimes lasting longer than the invasive is there), and animal interaction (which can influence seed deposition and predation).

            In other words, invasive plants don’t just add a new species to the community, but often change the way it works. The best, most often cited research estimates the U.S. cost of invasive species at $120 billions of dollars/year in losses and damages alone, and that was in 2005. These costs are to ranchers, farmers, foresters, and the environment, including aquatic. Around 42% of threatened and endangered species have gotten that way due to invasive species. The vast majority of invasive species are not native. Some of the worst were intentionally introduced by humans as ornamentals (buckthorn, for instance).

          • Kristi Silber – September 30, 2018 at 11:37 am

            No, that’s not true.

            Take the example of the emerald ash borer. It is killing millions of ash trees.

            Kristi, after all of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, of the Late Wisconsin Glacier, …….. had all melted away, ….. leaving nothing but bare ground and rocks, ….. what were the “invasive” species of plants that migrated to said “bare ground”, ……. only to be replaced by other “invasive” species, …… one of which was the Ash tree via the yearly dispersal of its “helicopter seeds”?

            Now I dun told ya, ….. biologists, especially botanists, ….. should not be picking “winners n’ losers”, ….. leave that up to the land owners because they will have to live with the results.

            Me thinks maybe you are a highly emotional “Enviro” who believes it is your duty and obligation to select the “winners” that is best for everyone else to live with..

            “HA” …… “the swamp” really does need draining, ya know.

  2. Wow, snow is a good insulator, but it did not stop the last glacial advance, perhaps these guys should take a refresher course on Albedo.

  3. “Our research has shown that soil moisture can play a much greater role in changing plant traits than we previously thought. We need to understand more about soil moisture in the Arctic.”

    Now that’s a real discovery. They think that they think. Long live Science.

    • The “we need to understand” was their “give me grant money” pitch. I’ve always wondered who the “we ” are in that statement. Them or all the rest of us?

    • I am wondering why they ignored increasing atmospheric CO2 as a factor. We know that plant leaves lose less moisture through their stomata as the amount of CO2 increases. Unless there has been an increase in precipitation, the only explanation for increased soil moisture is that the plants are using less moisture.

      • Larger plants suggest more nitrogen also. Leaf nitrogen content didn’t rise substantially, but plant size increased. They should be looking at soil nitrogen content too. As CO2 increase nitrogen fixing bacteria and fungi increase when nitrogen is limited as plants supply them with more resources (transferring carbon to soil).

        • aaron,

          It’s a common finding that nitrogen content tends to decrease when plants are grown at elevated CO2. The reasons are uncertain, apparently.

      • Richard,

        Because increased CO2 wouldn’t explain a change in species composition.

        “Unless there has been an increase in precipitation, the only explanation for increased soil moisture is that the plants are using less moisture.” Or that increased temperatures (and potentially a change in the insulating effects of snow through species change, as this article suggests) are leading to more available (non-frozen) moisture. Besides, they did discuss an increase in precipitation.

        “We know that plant leaves lose less moisture through their stomata as the amount of CO2 increases.” “We” also know that increased nighttime temperatures can lead to increased water loss. Besides, the decrease in water loss is only likely to be an effect during water stress – otherwise, there would also be less increase (or even decrease) in CO2 intake.

        • Quoted comments posted by: Kristi Silber – September 28, 2018 at 9:41 pm

          “We know that plant leaves lose less moisture through their stomata as the amount of CO2 increases.”

          In actuality, the greater the atmospheric CO2 ppm, the fewer the stomata the leaf foliage produces. And the fewer the stomata count is, the lesser is the quantity of water vapor that can be outgassed by the foliage.

          “We” also know that increased nighttime temperatures can lead to increased water loss.

          Plant respiration (metabolism, growth) requires warm temperatures, the uptake of water and the intake of oxygen, ……. resulting in the release (outgassing) of CO2 and H2O via the stomata openings. Therefore, when the normally cooler nighttime temperatures are superseded by warmer temperatures, then enhanced nighttime plant respiration results.

          The uptake of water by plants is not only needed for respiration, …… but also for transporting nutrients (sugar, minerals) from the roots up to the foliage.

          • Samuel,

            Right, although I would add that it’s not just stomatal density that can change, but the degree to which they are open, which is a shorter-term response.

            Rates of photosynthesis and respiration also depend on humidity, wind, ozone, solar irradiation, soil moisture, daytime temperatures, whether a plant is C3, C4 or CAM, leaf characteristics…there are many factors involved. It’s not as simple as, “CO2 leads to greater growth and less water uptake.” For instance, the timing of moisture availability can be important. A plant might grow at twice its normal rate in spring when conditions are good, then not be able to support all that extra tissue during a normal mid-summer hot, dry period despite its greater water use efficiency.

      • Richard,

        This talks about CO2 effects in detail.
        http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/7/eaao1167?utm_source=Climate+News+Network&utm_campaign=2ff5b37504-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_07_18_08_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1198ea8936-2ff5b37504-38689057

        “Temperature dependencies of respiration and carbon uptake suggest that increases in cold season Arctic labile carbon release will likely continue to exceed increases in net growing season carbon uptake under continued warming trends.”

    • Hmm… soil moisture has an effect on plants much more than they thought.
      They really ought to spend more time thinking about basic botany so as not to be surprised by such elementary relationships.

    • Does this mean the treemometer crowd have to reassess all of their ‘research’ now that temperature is not the only control of tree growth?

      Who-da-thunk-it?

      • John in Oz,

        It’s been well-known for decades that tree rings no longer show a good relationship to temperature. This is the reason they weren’t used in recent decades of the “hockey stick” analysis; instead, the instrumental record was used. Skeptics call this a trick, based on “Mike’s trick” of appending the instrumental record to “hide the decline” (i.e. remove the tree ring proxy) of climategate emails. Many skeptics refuse to believe that this is just casual talk among scientists, or that “trick” is commonly used to refer to a legitimate scientific process, predictably insisting that it’s a sign of fraud.

        The older tree ring record is still a usable, valid proxy which has been supported by other proxies.

  4. I watched a few moments of a program last night on PBS where the host was on an expedition in Siberia talking to reindeer herdsmen; the herders he said were anxious about climate change causing the tundra melt and refreeze into ice that prevents reindeer foraging for food in winter because they couldn’t nuzzle their snouts through ice. This was supposed to be resulting in tens of thousands of deer starving to death. But if arctic plants are growing taller through the tundra because of climate change, then nature is remedying the situation, no?

    • Well, no. Reindeer (food and wealth there) needs dry snow, refrozen slush kills them for good.

      Luckily refreezing is not climate, just some non-extreme weather.

      • Plant taller, no need to shovel with antlers. These creatures evolved just fine from a warmer Holocene Max (what is this ‘optimum’ stuff anyway?) when plants were … well… taller.

        • Gary,

          The key is the rate of change and how quickly the plant and animal communities are able to adapt and spread to new areas.

      • Hugs,

        “Luckily refreezing is not climate, just some non-extreme weather.”

        How do you know? Can you predict the future?

  5. When the air temperature drops to -30F it really doesn’t matter if the grass above it is 12″ tall or 30″ tall. The ground below is going to freeze hard and deep. There is a reason house foundations in the northern US are 48″ deep or more. And how do we know after the ground freezes that hard, the increased grass cover doesn’t in fact insulate the cold and keep it frozen longer?

    My apologies to all those metric types for using non-metric units.

    • In a fit of liberal madness, Canada officially went metric.
      Houses are still being built with “2 X 4s” on 33-foot lots.
      Other than being a general PITA, there was one amusement.
      You’d put your right hand up with the little finger extended.
      And ask “What is this?”
      ” A metric one of these.”
      Of course, this was the extended middle finger–a universal gesture.

      • Well yeah everybody calls it 2by4, but the fact is it’s often less than 95mm wide. Inflation.

        The insulation is the thing keeping winters cold from freezing the ground. But in the summer it works the other way around. Snow doesn’t insulate too well against the Sun. Much of the light and heat goes just through, so spring-time snow cover is suprisingly warm at the bottom.

    • rbabcock is correct. The insulating properties work to slow the freeze in the fall, but delay the thaw in the spring.

      We have 100 acres of tallgrass prairie on our farm in Kansas. Under certain conditions it will stay frozen weeks after the winter wheat field (with much exposed dark soil) has thawed.

      Further, highly educated environmentalists seem to know less than dumb ol’ farmers. Farmers in arid regions have know for hundreds (thousands?) of years to leave crop stubble up during the winter to catch snow. The retained snow become soil moisture for the spring growing season.

      These arctic plants are therefore capable of increasing their own local water supply. Funny how nature works like that.

      • pillageidiot,

        “Plant traits were strongly influenced by moisture levels in addition to temperature.”

        Why assume that scientists (not environmentalists – they are a different, if overlapping, group) don’t know as much as farmers?

        • “Why assume that scientists (not environmentalists – they are a different, if overlapping, group) don’t know as much as farmers?”

          Well, when a farmer makes an error, they pay for it.

          If they make enough errors…well, lets just say that the small towns surrounding farms are full of ex-farmers who made too many errors.

          Scientists, on the other hand…

  6. Only one thing we need to take away from this:
    hundreds of species of low-lying shrubs, grasses and other plants that play a critical role in carbon cycling and energy balance

    They use the word “critical”
    As any lawyer will tell you “Don’t exaggerate, it destroys your credibility”

    Thank you people, nice try.
    Next

  7. The last straw, and it’s getting longer! If it weren’t for Climate Change™, there would be little news, and soooo much unemployment among such experts, alas.

  8. Surely, someone will now produce a study showing that nutritional quality of arctic plants will be reduced, thereby causing malnutrition for animals that might thrive on such growth, leading to catastrophic species decline, resulting in the acceleration of the current mass extinction.

    Plant growth = doom

  9. I got giggle at these two claims back to back.

    “Taller plants trap more snow, which insulates the underlying soil and prevents it from freezing as quickly in winter.

    An increase in taller plants could speed up the thawing of this frozen carbon bank, and lead to an increase in the release of greenhouse gases.”

    The second directly contradicts the first. It is classic DoubleThink – that is, holding two directly contradictory views and believing both are correct.
    The use of logic and reason long ago departed the catastrophic climate change believers.

    • How so?

      Not that there’d be much point, but yes, the more snow somewhere, the less elsewhere and the deeper frost elsewhere, where there is less snow. So what was the point?

      The more reindeer, the more frost, since the little hooves tramp snow making it less insulating letting heat escape. Funny, eh? Trod somewhere, the frost may be weeks longer.

    • Bruce Cobb – [ They don’t have a clue what’s happening, or why, but they “know” it’s bad. Because, climate change. ]

      Exactly, everything sounded completely positive until this:

      “An increase in taller plants could speed up the thawing of this frozen carbon bank, and lead to an increase in the release of greenhouse gases.”

      We only need to infer the horrors.

      Do we need to start mowing the Arctic to preserve it?

      • I think that it was on Jonova’s blog (my grovelling apology if it was here) that I saw a comment about waiting at a crossing in Australia for a train 0,5km long carrying coal for export to China. To a port where the ships are stacked up for onward passage of enormous quantities each day of combustible material. How could a few extra inches of grass compare as a source of CO2 to what is happening in China, India, indonesia, much of Africa, etc? especially as the effect they are concerned about is supposition,(quote:”if it results in an increase in the release of greenhouse gases”) whereas China’s consumption of coal is a fact.
        The work itself is , I am sure, of interest to plant specialists and professionally carried out , but it is the unnecessary addendum that annoys a bit.

  10. So…taller plants, more herbivore chow…
    More huntable Caribou and snow geese to feed the poor!
    And more food for the snow grizzly bears aka Poleys?

    Win-win!

  11. RE: “Vernal sweetgrass, which is common in lowland Europe, has now moved in to sites in Iceland and Sweden.”

    Wrong. These plants have not ‘moved into sites in Iceland and Sweden’. Their seed has laid dormant in the frozen tundra since the end of the Medieval Warm Period, when southern Greenland was warm enough to be farmed by the Vikings. Now, the climate has warmed up enough once again for these ice-locked dormant seeds to sprout and thrive.

    This article is yet another example of ‘Linear Thinking in a Cyclical World’!

    • Mac,

      Interesting thesis, except for the fact that vernal sweetgrass seeds have a viability of only a few years. Very few seeds retain viability for hundreds of years.

  12. Wow. I had no idea I was so fortunate to be born when I was. Perfect temperatures, perfect level of CO2. The right number of polar bears, and now, the ideal height of Arctic plants. There were floods, droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, and tornadoes, all of the ‘right size and severity’. But the models say we lost all that. How tragic!

    How do we manage to produce more, achieve more, and live longer, so far removed from the garden of Eden we once had? And why did so many people die of cold, starvation, and other depravations when the world was so perfect?

    • That period also had no errors in any measurements, it was and is the perfect reference for all other measurements a period of Zen Earth. We really should make a special label for the period.

      • Clearly it was the Utopiacene.

        However, as colleges try to rid their curriculum of the study of Western Civ, millennials may be unfamiliar with that term. Therefore we may have to resort to the Goldilockocene for this period.

        • Utopiacene
          We have this month’s winner!
          I’ve always been amazed that at some time in the past everything was perfect. It’s like that time when children respected their parents. Politics was civil, too. Yes, then! Oh, and people spoke proper English as well. Except the French, of course.

  13. Oh for Pete’s sake! For anyone complaining that Arctic plants growing too tall, you can go up there and cut them down to size. I’ll let you use my weed wacker, it’s battery powered. We can even fix you up with a solar panel on your back to power it, that way you’ll be “green.”

  14. Garden variety intellect is shelling us with nonsense. It is the CO2, CARBON DIOXIDE that is causing it!!! Here we have climate science flourishing during the “Great Greening Epoch^тм”, the only real palpable climate change that can be demonstrated to be happening, and they don’t notice the carbonized jungle leaping up all around them. Even hampered by their linear thought processes, it should be obvious that any release of CO2 will find a ready taker – the new jungle for goodness sakes! Are they going to let this Grand Teaching Moment pass them by? Hey, a geologist and mining engineer gets it, the farmer and forester gets it. Don’t let the butcher the baker and candlestickmaker get it befor you clisci drones do.

    Gee, they need to understand about the role of moisture!!! I worked in the tundra and taiga (geoligical mapping , mining exploration) for decades and seldom had a day with dry feet. Let me rule out this figment right now. Moisture can be striken from your list – there is ample supply. Drainage in general is sluggish and boggy ground abounds.

  15. From the article: “Rapid climate warming in the Arctic and alpine regions”

    Hyperbole.

    Please define “rapid” in this context.

  16. Ah no, not too tall.

    Its becoming to real now the horror of climate change.
    All the leaves falling off the tree’s and the plants dying here, its like a bad movie.

    • Don’t get me started with that. Recently they clear-cut all of the old-growth corn fields around here. The devastation is heart-rending. Our grandchildren will not know corn.

  17. Jeezuz! Here we go again. To look at a natural plant and tell it it is not growing ”correctly” is total insanity.

  18. I think you mistake the “Green Movement” as being for an increase in plant life on Earth. They are actually promoting the green (synonymous with money) going into the pockets of politicians as payment for laws and regulations which lead to the destruction of industrial civilization. The latter has been their goal since the New Left emerged in the 1960s.

  19. “Vernal sweetgrass, which is common in lowland Europe, has now moved in to sites in Iceland and Sweden.”

    Nonsense. Vernal Sweetgrass is ubiquitous in Sweden and has been at least since Linnaeus’ days back in the LIA (not much data before that). Here is a map of the distribution from Hulténs “Atlas över växternas utbredning i Norden” (1950):

    http://linnaeus.nrm.se/flora/mono/poa/antho/anthodon.jpg

    Just where is it supposed to be moving in?

    And the world distribution, from the same source:

    http://linnaeus.nrm.se/flora/mono/poa/antho/anthodov.jpg

    It is indeed absent from central Iceland which is almost completely vegetationless, so I suppose it might be spreading there.

    For those not familiar with Eric Hultén, he was the worlds’ leading authority on arctic plants.

    • tty,

      But has it been in alpine sites? That, I believe, is the issue here. I don’t read Swedish, but I’m guessing the bottom distribution on the Sweden map says something like “up to 600 m in the north.”

      This suggests A odoratum doesn’t flower in alpine areas, while it does in lowlands. From 1999. Different area, I’m guessing, but may be relevant?
      https://www.jstor.org/stable/4201345?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

      (Remember, it’s just a PR, which often aren’t very accurate with details!)

  20. “The team now has a comprehensive data set on Arctic tundra plants, collected from sites in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.”

    And by the way there is no tundra in Scandinavia since permafrost only occurs very locally. Only montane heath.

  21. “…the permafrost lying under the northern latitudes contains 30 to 50 percent of the world’s soil carbon”

    But that organic carbon didn’t get there by plants growing when the ground was frozen or covered with ice/snow. Plants grow when it is warmer. The alarmist viewpoint about a warming Arctic is broken from the start.

    • The fact that they contain so much carbon suggests that when they are active/thawed they are a carbon sink.

  22. “the permafrost lying under the northern latitudes contains 30 to 50 percent of the world’s soil carbon”

    And this carbon is trapped because the ground stays frozen. BUT the carbon had to get there somehow and to do so the soil MUST have been unfrozen at some time in the past.

    So if temperatures were high enough long enough to unfreeze the ground and allow all this carbon to be stored, then why didn’t those previous higher temperatures for an extended period cause all the problems we are being told they will cause this time? And how did the temperature ever decrease to freeze the now carbon rich soil if we are being told this time those temperatures will cause a run away greenhouse?

  23. “An increase in taller plants could speed up the thawing of this frozen carbon bank, and lead to an increase in the release of greenhouse gases.” It would seem any nature story has to have some reference to how it impacts or is impacted by climate change. It seems to be the only topic that matters.

    • John,

      Those stories that talk about a link with climate change are the only ones likely to be discussed here. It isn’t exactly an unbiased sample.

  24. The title of this post, by enclosing in quotation marks, “too tall,” suggests that phrase is used somewhere in the post itself. It doesn’t.

    Some have commented about the fact that there is all this carbon stored in the soil, suggesting the climate has been warmer. Well, yes. No one has denied that.

    “So if temperatures were high enough long enough to unfreeze the ground and allow all this carbon to be stored, then why didn’t those previous higher temperatures for an extended period cause all the problems we are being told they will cause this time? And how did the temperature ever decrease to freeze the now carbon rich soil if we are being told this time those temperatures will cause a run away greenhouse?” (mm1palmer)

    Whether something is a “problem” depends a lot on the rate of warming or cooling, and how humans and other organisms adapt to the change.

    The decrease in temperature could have been due to a variety of circumstances (the sun, a period of strong volcanic activity, capture of CO2 by plants and geological processes…). There have always been changes in the Earth’s climate.

    I think the idea of the “runaway greenhouse effect” was seized by the media based on a few papers without discussing the kinds of conditions necessary for it to happen. The idea that it’s likely to occur due to human causes has been pretty well debunked, though it could happen in a couple billion years as the sun heats up.

  25. How revealing that so many comments here are about the stupidity of the researchers. It’s as if, based on a PR, WUWT readers know all there is to know about not only this research, but all research related to it. Just because the PR doesn’t discuss the effects of CO2 uptake, for example, that must mean that no one has.

    What arrogance to consider oneself to be smarter and better informed than those who have spent years studying something.

    It’s so easy to despise the knowledge of others, especially when they acknowledge that they don’t know everything there is to know. That, in turn, makes it easy to dismiss whatever evidence scientists come up with to support any hypotheses about climate change.

    Jibes and insults suggest ignorance and inability to consider something rationally than to any failing of the scientists. At least read the paper before trashing the work.

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