• Late quaternary and future biome simulations for Alaska and eastern Russia

      Hendricks, Amy S.; Walsh, John; Saito, Kazuyuki; Bigelow, Nancy; Bhatt, Uma (2016-05)
      Arctic biomes across a region including Alaska and Eastern Russia were investigated using the BIOME4 biogeochemical and biogeography vegetation model. This study investigated past (the last 21,000 years), present, and future vegetation distributions in the study area, using climate forcing from five CMIP5 models (CCSM4, GISS-E2-R, MIROC-ESM, MPI-ESM, and MRI-CGCM3). The present-day BIOME4 simulations were generally consistent with current vegetation observations in the study region characterized by evergreen and deciduous taiga and shrub tundras. Paleoclimatological simulations were compared with pollen data samples collected in the study region. Pre-industrial biome simulations are generally similar to the modern reconstruction but differ by having more shrub tundra in both Russia and Alaska to the north, as well as less deciduous taiga in Alaska. Pre-industrial simulations were in good agreement with the pollen data. Mid-Holocene simulations place shrub tundras along the Arctic coast, and in some cases along the eastern coast of Russia. Simulations for the Mid-Holocene are in good agreement with pollen-based distributions of biomes. Simulations for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) show that the Bering Land Bridge was covered almost entirely by cushion forb, lichen and moss tundra, shrub tundra, and graminoid tundra. Three out of the five models’ climate data produce evergreen and deciduous taiga in what is now southwestern Alaska, however the pollen data does not support this. The distributions of cushion forb, lichen, and moss tundra and graminoid tundra differ noticeably between models, while shrub tundra distributions are generally similar. Future simulations of BIOME4 based on the RCP8.5 climate scenario indicate a northward shift of the treeline and a significant areal decrease of shrub tundra and graminoid tundra regions in the 21st century. Intrusions of cool mixed, deciduous, and conifer forests above 60°N, especially in southwest Alaska, were notable. Across eastern Russia, deciduous taiga begins to overtake evergreen taiga, except along the coastal regions where evergreen taiga remains the favored biome.