Global warming seen in Alaska's greening

May 30, 2006

A forest ecologist in Alaska is warning that the state is losing its forests to global warming and could soon turn out to be a state of grasslands.

Glenn Juday, a professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, told USA Today in some areas, as much as 40 percent of surface water has disappeared, taking with it vital habitat for ducks and other waterfowl.

Drought is stressing and killing spruce, aspen and birch, and such pests as spruce budworm, aspen leaf miner and the spruce bark beetle, once kept in check by winter cold, are now flourishing, Juday said.

Since the 1970s, climate change has doubled the growing season in some places and raised state temperatures six degrees in the winter each year since 1950.

Alaska had long been kept frigid by vast regions of snow and ice that reflect 70 percent of the sun's energy back, but higher temperatures are shrinking the cover, the report said.

"Soon, people will be coming to the great plains of Alaska," Juday said.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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