The Mummy Returns: Evidence of a boreal forest ecosystem in the Canadian High Arctic

Joel Barker
School of Earth Sciences, Byrd Polar Research Center
The Ohio State University

7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Current climatic conditions prevent boreal forest plant species from surviving in the Canadian High Arctic. However, evidence in the form of ancient forest sites (so-called fossil forests) indicates that boreal forest ecosystems existed in the Arctic up to 81° north latitude until just prior to the onset of the last ice age, some 3 million years ago. Interestingly, atmospheric CO2 concentrations at the time were ~400 parts per million, a level that was recorded for the first time in human history during spring 2012. As concentrations of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere continue to rise, approaching and expected to surpass levels associated with a warmer and forested ancient Arctic, what does this mean for Arctic regions in the future?

Using information learned from Arctic fossil forests, including the most recently discovered and most northerly fossil forest site (2009), the relationship between past atmospheric CO2 and climate and ecosystem change will be explored. We will also discuss the application of this information for predicting future climate and ecosystem dynamics in the Arctic.