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Science

Alaska’s Kenai National Forest Suffering from Climate Change

535973483_2fc3f08182 I am time and time again amazed at the far reaching implications that climate change is having on the environment. More than just melting ice, rising sea levels and warmer winters, looking two or three links down the chain – sometimes even more – the environment is suffering heavily.

The latest consequence of climate change is taking place in Alaska, and really baffles the mind at the simplicity of the environment, and the ease at which it is to harm it.

The Kenai National Forest in Alaska contains a 13,700 year old peat bog, and scientists are watching it disappear before their eyes. They are finding are that over the past 30 years, plants and shrubs once unable to live in such a soggy location, are beginning to pop up.

Scientists believe that in 50 years, the bog could be covered by black spruce trees. In other words, the bog is drying up. And in a state that has already experienced the largest regional warming of any US state – a total average of 3 degrees Celsius since the 1960’s and 4.5 degrees C in the interior of the state during the winter – this is just more evidence.

But how could a new forest be a problem? It took me awhile to work this one out, but the answer refers back to my analogy of the links along a chain.

The problem is something that I actually knew, somewhere deep in my mind: approximately 50% of peat bogs are made up of carbon. Subsequently, drying out or burning up of a peat bog, would end up releasing that carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In addition, this particular peat bog – and others like it – acts as a natural fire bridge. Now, instead of a mass of wetland, whenever a fire drives through, it is just going to find more and more burnable material, further damaging the local environment.

As the Fark submitted who submitted this story said: “Climate change a bunch of hooey, you say? The Kenai National Forest would like a few words with you.”

credit: dingbat2005 at Flickr under a Creative Commons license




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