IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Effects of observed and experimental climate change on terrestrial ecosystems in northern Canada: results from the Canadian IPY program


  • Gregory Henry


  • Karen Harper
  • Wenjun Chen
  • Julie Deslippe
  • Robert Grant
  • Peter Lafleur
  • Esther Lévesque
  • Steven Siciliano
  • Suzanne Simard


Tundra and taiga ecosystems comprise nearly 40 % of the terrestrial landscapes of Canada. These permafrost ecosystems have supported humans for more than 4500 years, and are currently home to ca. 115,000 people, the majority of whom are First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The responses of these ecosystems to the regional warming over the past 30–50 years were the focus of four Canadian IPY projects. Northern residents and researchers reported changes in climate and weather patterns and noted shifts in vegetation and other environmental variables. In forest-tundra areas tree growth and reproductive effort correlated with temperature, but seedling establishment was often hindered by other factors resulting in site-specific responses. Increased shrub cover has occurred in sites across the Arctic at the plot and landscape scale, and this was supported by results from experimental warming. Experimental warming increased vegetation cover and nutrient availability in most tundra soils; however, resistance to warming was also found. Soil microbial diversity in tundra was no different than in other biomes, although there were shifts in mycorrhizal diversity in warming experiments. All sites measured were sinks for carbon during the growing season, with expected seasonal and latitudinal patterns. Modeled responses of a mesic tundra system to climate change showed that the sink status will likely continue for the next 50–100 years, after which these tundra systems will likely become a net source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. These IPY studies were the first comprehensive assessment of the state and change in Canadian northern terrestrial ecosystems and showed that the inherent variability in these systems is reflected in their site-specific responses to changes in climate. They also showed the importance of using local traditional knowledge and science, and provided extensive data sets, sites and researchers needed to study and manage the inevitable changes in the Canadian North. Copyright The Author(s) 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory Henry & Karen Harper & Wenjun Chen & Julie Deslippe & Robert Grant & Peter Lafleur & Esther Lévesque & Steven Siciliano & Suzanne Simard, 2012. "Effects of observed and experimental climate change on terrestrial ecosystems in northern Canada: results from the Canadian IPY program," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 115(1), pages 207-234, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:115:y:2012:i:1:p:207-234 DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0587-1

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dim Coumou & Alexander Robinson & Stefan Rahmstorf, 2013. "Global increase in record-breaking monthly-mean temperatures," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 118(3), pages 771-782, June.
    2. Kevin Trenberth, 2012. "Framing the way to relate climate extremes to climate change," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 115(2), pages 283-290, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:115:y:2012:i:1:p:207-234. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.