In a best-case scenario, up to 30% of the Siberian tundra can be saved by 2050 – however, it could be lost entirely without consistent climate action.
That’s according to research by the Alfred Wegener Institute, which claims that the treeline of Siberian forestry is advancing northwards, as temperatures increase.
This transition is meaning that the tundra is being lost, with the scientists revealing that should greenhouse gas emissions stay at the current level or worse, there could be up to 14°C increases in average temperatures by 2100.
The tundra is the habitat of many unique plant species, 5% of which are endemic to the region. Rare species such as reindeer, lemmings and the Arctic bumblebee will also be at risk, should conditions worsen.
Using a computer simulation program, the researchers found that without changes to emission levels, the forestry could spready northward at a rate of 30km per decade – leaving just 6% of the current tundra by 2050.
With ambitious emission reduction schemes in place, a 30% reduction is the best we can hope to achieve from this point, the scientists claim.
Professor Ulrike Herzschuh, lead author, said: “In the course of our study, we simulated this process for the tundra in northeast Russia.
“The central question that concerned us was which emissions path does humanity have to follow in order to preserve the tundra as a refuge for flora and fauna, as well its role for the cultures of indigenous peoples and their traditional ties to the environment?”
“At this point, it’s a matter of life and death for the Siberian tundra,” added collaborator, WWF Germany’s Eva Klebelsberg.