12 Sep 2023
 | 12 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

High resolution simulations reveal a large loss of Fennoscandian tundra due to climate change

Fredrik Lagergren, Robert G. Björk, Camilla Andersson, Danijel Belušić, Mats P. Björkman, Erik Kjellström, Petter Lind, David Lindstedt, Tinja Olenius, Håkan Pleijel, Gunhild Rosqvist, and Paul A. Miller

Abstract. The Fennoscandian boreal and mountain regions harbour a wide range of vegetation types, from boreal forest to high alpine tundra and barren soils. The area is facing a rise in air temperature above the global average and changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. This is expected to alter the Fennoscandian vegetation com-position and change the conditions for areal land-use such as forestry, tourism and reindeer husbandry. In this study we used a unique high-resolution (3 km) climate scenario with considerable warming resulting from strongly increasing carbon dioxide emissions to investigate how climate change can alter the vegetation composition, biodiversity and availability of suitable reindeer forage. Using a dynamical vegetation model, including a new implementation of potential reindeer grazing, resulted in simulated vegetation maps of unprecedented high resolution for such a long time period and spatial extent. The results were evaluated at the local scale using vegetation inventories and for the whole area against satellite-based vegetation maps. A deeper analysis of vegetation shifts related to statistics of threatened species was performed in six “hotspot” areas containing records of rare and threatened species. The simulations show dramatic shifts in the vegetation composition, accelerating at the end of the century. Alarmingly, the results suggest the southern mountain alpine region in Sweden will be completely covered by forests at the end of the 21st century, making preservation of many rare and threatened species impossible. In the northern alpine regions, most vegetation types will persist but shift to higher elevations with reduced areal extent, endangering vulnerable species. Simulated potential for reindeer grazing indicates latitudinal differences, where the current higher potentials in the south will diminish, while future potentials will increase in the north, especially for the summer grazing grounds. These combined results suggest significant shifts in vegetation composition over the present century for this scenario, with large implications for nature conservation, reindeer husbandry and forestry.

Fredrik Lagergren et al.

Status: open (until 29 Oct 2023)

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Fredrik Lagergren et al.

Fredrik Lagergren et al.


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Short summary
The Fennoscandian boreal and mountain regions harbour a wide range of ecosystems sensitive to climate change. A new, highly resolved high-emission climate scenario enabled modelling of the vegetation development in this region at high resolution for the 21st century. The results show dramatic south to north and low to high altitude shifts of vegetation zones, especially for the open tundra environments, that will have large impli-cations for nature conservation, reindeer husbandry and forestry.