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Climate Change

Climate Change in the Mackenzie Mountains

Scientists expect to see the greatest effects of global warming in the Arctic. What, exactly, will these effects be?


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Permafrost underlies 24% of Earth’s land surface and holds about 50% of the world’s terrestrial carbon (the carbon stored in soil and plants).

Permafrost—ground that remains below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for more than a year—holds crucial clues about global warming.

The two-decade record from the Mackenzie Mountains area shows an increase of about 1.25 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) in mean annual permafrost temperature. As temperatures rise and permafrost thaws, the organic compounds in it begin to decompose, producing carbon dioxide and methane. The release of these greenhouse gases will amplify the effects of global warming. Arctic landscapes will change, and the current plant and animal residents may find themselves unable to adapt.

The tree line—the line beyond which trees don’t grow—is the other major focus of this research. Warmer temperatures could mean that more trees can grow farther north, into the tundra. Good for the trees, right? But it’s more complicated: in the tundra, trees are exposed to harsher temperatures and winds, which make it harder for them to survive and reproduce.

Climate change researchers measuring permafrost in the Canadian Arctic

Find out how much, and how fast, climate change is affecting the Arctic.

These shifts will change life for every species in the Arctic. That’s why researchers are working hard now to understand exactly how these lands and species work together. They can only see that picture by collecting long-term data; this landscape is vulnerable to extreme weather events, which means it can vary greatly from season to season. By joining forces with the scientists, you’ll help detect long-term patterns and build a trove of information that will help make the future less uncertain for people everywhere.

About the research area

Mackenzie Mountains, Northwest Territory, Canada, North America & Arctic

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Steven
Mamet
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Saskatchewan

ABOUT Steven Mamet

Steven Mamet has focused his research on range limits of tree species at northern tree lines, and how climate and environmental change shape tree line dynamics. Currently, he is evaluating range limits at tree line near Wolf Creek, Yukon Territory, and assessing climate variation and forest resilience along moisture gradients in central Saskatchewan.

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