Project Description
Short Title: Greening of the Arctic (GOA)
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One of the key goals of IPY will be to document the rapid and dramatic changes to terrestrial vegetation that are expected to occur across the circumpolar Arctic as a result of climate change. Changes in the biomass of terrestrial ecosystems will likely affect the permafrost, active layer, carbon reserves, trace-gas fluxes, hydrological systems, biodiversity, wildlife populations and the habitability of the Arctic. Changes in green biomass can be expected across the entire bioclimate gradient from treeline to the coldest parts of the Arctic. The Greening of the Arctic (GOA) initiative consists of a group of scientists who are part of four major components.

The first component will examine in detail the 24-year record of greenness across the entire circumpolar Arctic as measured by the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) using satellite imagery (AVHRR and MODIS). The study will examine historical trends in NDVI and document areas of major increases or decreases in the NDVI and link these trends to changes in sea-ice distribution, land-surface-temperatures, snow-cover, bioclimate subzones, vegetation type, glacial history, and other variables in a circumpolar GIS database that is part of the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map (CAVM). Modeling studies will use the past trends in NDVI to predict future distribution of arctic vegetation using the BIOME4 model. Transient dynamics of the vegetation will be examined using the ArcVeg model. The project will focus along a North American Arctic Transect (NAAT) where extensive ground data are available. This component is already funded by NSF.

The second component will examine NDVI-ecosystem relationships along transects in North America and Eurasia at zonal sites in all 5 arctic bioclimate subzones. This portion of the study will take advantage of the existing NAAT that currently consists of 20 research sites in Alaska and Canada (Toolik Lake to Howe Island in Alaska, and Inuvik to Isachsen in Canada) that are part of several ongoing research projects. A similar transect through all five bioclimate subzones has been proposed for the Yamal Peninsula region in Russia, extending to Svalbard in the extreme High Arctic, the Eurasian Arctic Transect (EAT). The Russian part of the study is linked to the Circumpolar Arctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment (CARMA) project, and will examine the linkages between greening trends, the range and forage for the reindeers of the Nenets people, and the regional sea-ice conditions. The Russian component has been proposed to the NASA/USDA Land Cover Land-Use Change initiative.

The third component will address the collection of ground biomass and site characterization along the NAAT and EAT transects. This will provide a legacy of the data and infrastructure along the full arctic climate gradient at representative sites in each arctic bioclimate subzone in western Canada and on the Yamal Peninsula-Svalbard transect. Standard protocols and field manual for biomass collection, and other site characterization will be developed. The biomass protocols will be developed in concert with researchers at other established sites such as existing CALM and ITEX sites and flagship observatories to expand the network of biomass collection sites.

An outreach/education component of the project will develop a web-based Arctic Geobotanical Atlas (AGA) that will use a variety of tools to help students, educators, scientists, land managers, and the public to understand issues related to the greening of the Arctic. Users will be able to download and use online GIS data from the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map and maps at several sites along the GOA transects, in combination with other remote-sensing products. This component is already funded by an NSF grant. Educational application of the AGA in the classroom will be proposed at a later date. Linkage of the project to the University of the Arctic and Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) will also occur in relationship to the human dimensions aspects of the project.