Increased Growth of Arctic Plants Does Not “Counteract” Climate Change

Scientific Reports, 21 March 2022

There has been speculation that warmer temperatures and a longer growing season in the Arctic might help slow climate change, by those plants absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2) as temperatures rise. Plants naturally absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. The reasoning has been that rising temperatures melt Arctic snow cover earlier in the spring, which lengthens the growing season for high latitude plants; forming a denser layer of vegetation that spreads across larger expanses of the region. This study however dispels the theory that increased vegetation in the Arctic will help counteract climate change by removing more CO2 from the atmosphere. While the earlier snow melt made Arctic plants more productive in June, that productivity began to decline already in July — normally the peak growing season – and soon dropped well below normal. Ultimately, this merely “shifted” the growing season, and did not increase the amount of carbon absorbed by Arctic plants. Authors also underscored that changes in snow cover impact both wildlife that depend on certain plants for food; and human populations in the region, who rely on local ecosystems for hunting, trapping, and fishing.