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Alaska's Changing Boreal Forest

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Issue: 
Spring 2006

- Brian Riordan (BNZ)

Chapin, F.S., III, M.W. Oswood, K. Van Cleve, L.A. Viereck, and D.L Verbyla (editors). 2006. Alaska's Changing Boreal Forest. Oxford University Press, New York

The Bonanza Creek LTER released its synthesis volume this spring: Alaska's Changing Boreal Forest. This volume synthesizes current understanding of the ecology of Alaska's boreal forests and describes their unique features in the context of circumpolar and global patterns. It tells how fire and climate contributed to the biome's current dynamics. As climate warms and permafrost (permanently frozen ground) thaws, the boreal forest may be on the cusp of a major change in state. This synthesis volume covers a wide range of topics and research prevalent to a warming climate and it's impacts on the Boreal Forest.

In the first section, the reader can absorb the geographic and historical context for understanding the boreal forest. The book then delves into the dynamics of plant and animal communities inhabiting this forest, and the biogeochemical processes that link these organisms. The last section explores landscape phenomena that operate at larger temporal and spatial scales and integrates the processes described in earlier sections. Much of the research on which this book is based results from the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research Program. This book provides a synthesis of the substantial literature on Alaska's boreal forest that is accessible to professional ecologists, students, and the interested public.

In summary, recent warming has increased drought stress in trees, frequency of wildfire and insect outbreaks, sporadic loss of permafrost, loss of nitrogen from nitrogen-limited watersheds, and changes in feedbacks to regional and global climate systems. Many of these changes have substantial societal importance both regionally and globally, suggesting that continuing efforts to develop a predictive understanding of ecological resilience and change are critical.

As with all of the LTER synthesis volumes this is a "good read".