A few weeks ago reports surfaced about the impact of climate change on Greenland and what that might mean for other parts of the world. Perhaps more than anywhere else on Earth, a warming planet could spell extreme changes in what Greenland looks like, in terms of geography and navigability. As has occurred in the past, the melting of Greenland’s ice sheets could change the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean, in turn altering the climate even more.

Greenland ice sheet. Credit: Andrew Davies/Greenpeace

Greenland ice sheet. Credit: Andrew Davies/Greenpeace

How might Greenland look in a warmer world?

The world’s largest island is currently 80% covered by ice, effectively restricting humanity to coastal regions. So the term “Greenland” is a bit of a misnomer, but in a warmer climate, say, 100 years in the future, it might be very apt indeed.

If left alone, Greenland’s native species of trees could take 2,000 years to spread, but with a bit of human meddling in the form of importing non-native trees could make things very green by the end of the century.

Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, from Aarhus University in Denmark is quoted in an article from the Press Association:

Greenland has… the potential to become a lot greener. Forest like the coastal coniferous forests in today’s Alaska and western Canada will be able to thrive in fairly large parts of Greenland, for example, with trees like sitka spruce and lodgepole pine. It will provide new opportunities for the Greenlanders.

Sounds good and as we all know, importing non-native or sometimes “invasive” plant species never did any harm anywhere ever, right?

Despite that sarcastic warning, I know it’s been going on since the dawn of time. Without transplanting plant species, tomatoes would have stayed in Mexico, watermelons in southern Africa and oranges in Southeast Asia.

Of course, the whole deal with non-native species is never black and white.

Anyway, like it or not, the Earth is warming and Greenland, more than most places, will have to prepare for what that means, whether the results are desirable or not.

The prolific Arctic dwarf birch could help turn Greenland green. Pic: Randi Hausken (Flickr CC)

The prolific Arctic dwarf birch could help turn Greenland green. Pic: Randi Hausken (Flickr CC)