Researching a changing climate
Scientists say the average temperature across Alaska has increased by approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 60 years and additional warming is expected, along with drier conditions.
Researchers with the School of Natural Resources and Extension are studying how the changing climate affects the distribution of vegetation, forest productivity, regrowth and management, arctic and subarctic soils and new agricultural possibilities. Some of this research is highlighted here.
Research published last summer by forest ecologist Glenn Juday indicates that the Interior has become too hot and dry to be an ideal climate for lowland white spruce, which is the most prized commercial species in the region.
For 25 years, silviculturist John Yarie has been studying what effect limiting moisture has on forest productivity. He has created artificial drought conditions by using plastic platforms to exclude rainfall and removing snow to reduce snowmelt.
Agronomist Mingchu Zhang said higher temperatures could lead to a longer growing season and, potentially, new crops that can be grown in Alaska. He is identifying and selecting spring wheat and malting and hulless barley cultivars that can be grown under dryland conditions.Professor Dave Verbyla has been using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing to analyze historic trends in the boreal forest, mostly recently on how vegetation is affected by changing climatic factors such as the spring snowpack, length of the growing season, date of the spring bud burst and summer moisture.
Associate Professor Julie Joly is analyzing public policy as it relates to natural resources management, including potential conflicts between land managers because of issues related to climate change.
“Our work in climate change relates to managing natural resources in a changing environment,” said Milan Shipka, director of research for the school.
- The site of the 1983 Rosie Creek fire near Fairbanks provides forest scientists an ideal lab to study forest regrowth under changing conditions.
- Research will provide information for forest managers who are trying to design adaptive management alternatives.