In a Single Generation, Alaska's Landscapes Have Transformed
As we continue to burn fossil fuels like there’s no tomorrow, an insidious transformation is taking place under our noses. Remote ecosystems in our planet’s far north are changing at a scale that’s hard to imagine.
A new study published in Global Change Biology is making that imagination part a bit easier. It estimates that 67,000 square miles of land—13 percent of the state of Alaska—has experienced “directional change” over the past 32 years, becoming greener, browner, wetter, or drier as permafrost thaws, glaciers retreat, treelines move north, and wildfires ravage landscapes.
Some of these changes are part of the natural course of ecological succession. But the fingerprints of human-induced climate change across this vast state are also impossible to ignore. So are the planet-wide consequences.