Posted on November 05, 2018

Nature, a science journal that publishes fine peer-reviewed research that drives ground-breaking discovery, recently published a report confirming the changing nature of Arctic plants as a result of global warming. The study was conducted by an international team of nearly 130 biologists led by scientists from the German Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). This team includes Dr. Juha Alatalo, Associate Professor in the Biological Sciences Program at Qatar University (QU).

The study was conducted following the observation that over the past three decades, taller plant species were slowly increasing throughout the entire Arctic tundra, which is notably the home of low-growing grass and dwarf shrubs. The researchers found that the area had also undergone one of the fastest rates of warming on the planet. Of the connection, Dr. Juha notes, “Taller plant species, either from warmer pockets within the tundra or from southern or lower elevation areas, have spread across the tundra.” He adds, “If taller plants continue to spread at the current rate, the plant community height could increase by 20 to 60% by the end of the century.”

The study conducted by the team has been scientifically accepted and confirms QU’s goal in producing environmental expertise on a global scale through their qualified and accomplished faculty of researchers, who come from a variety of scientific specialties. On the importance of this study, Dr. Mariam Al-Ali Al-Maadeed, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, says, “The publication of this study in a world-class magazine such as ‘Nature’ undoubtedly confirms the strength of the research and its impression on the scientific world. Of course, we are very proud that a QU researcher was a participant in this important study.

She adds, “Planet earth has become such a small place, not only in terms of communication but also because environmental issues cross borders and continents. The harm caused by a human being in the north, affects the south. Global warming and the ozone hole issue is not just an issue for industrialized countries, it is now a global issue.” On QU’s role in promoting environmental research and studies, Dr. Mariam points to Qatar’s interest and investment in sustainable development. It is a cornerstone of Qatar National Vision 2030 and for this reason the state has enacted laws and legislations to preserve the environment in Qatar. QU boast research centers that work to safeguard the environment and the University encompasses academic disciplines, both undergraduate and postgraduate, in the environmental field.

The Arctic region is an important and relevant area of study as it is a key area in climate change research. The report notes that “the permafrost underlying tundra vegetation contains one-third to half of the world’s soil carbon. When the permafrost thaws, greenhouse gases could thus be released. An increase in taller plants could speed up this process as taller plants trap more snow in winter, which insulates the underlying soil and prevents it from freezing quickly and deeply in winter.”