Geophysical Research Letters

Recent shift in Eurasian boreal forest greening response may be associated with warmer and drier summers



Terrestrial ecosystems in the northern high latitudes are currently experiencing drastic warming, and recent studies suggest that boreal forests may be increasingly vulnerable to warming-related factors, including temperature-induced drought stress as well as shifts in fire regimes and insect outbreaks. Here we analyze interannual relationships in boreal forest greening and climate over the last three decades using newly available satellite vegetation data. Our results suggest that due to continued summer warming in the absence of sustained increases in precipitation, a turning point has been reached around the mid-1990s that shifted western central Eurasian boreal forests into a warmer and drier regime. This may be the leading cause for the emergence of large-scale negative correlations between summer temperatures and forest greenness. If such a regime shift would be sustained, the dieback of the boreal forest induced by heat and drought stress as predicted by vegetation models may proceed more rapidly than anticipated.