In recent decades, the scientific community has increasingly focused on the changes taking place in the Arctic zone. Global warming, melting ice and climate change have a direct impact on the nature of this unique region. However, to fully appreciate these changes, it is necessary to understand the history and evolution of Arctic plant life.
Recent research by an international team of scientists is shedding light on the origins of the Arctic flora. DNA sequencing of more than 3,600 species of Arctic plants has revealed that the ancestors of some of them appeared about 10 million years ago. This is much earlier than previously thought – about 2-3 million years ago. Thus, the Arctic tundra was formed much earlier than expected.
The study was conducted by the staff of the Central Siberian Botanical Garden (CSBS) of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in cooperation with scientists from China, France and the USA. They collected an extensive collection of plants from herbarium collections of different countries and conducted genetic analysis to find out the evolutionary history of the Arctic flora.
It turned out that about 10 million years ago, the migration of plants from the Mediterranean and western North America to the Arctic began. During this period, there was a sharp decline in the average annual temperature in the Arctic and a drop in sea level. These factors, according to scientists, contributed to the emergence of Arctic flora.
The number of plant species that migrated from North America was much greater than the native species that evolved within the Arctic. This suggests that plant migration from other regions played an important role in the formation of the Arctic flora.
These study results are important not only for understanding the history of the Arctic, but also for the conservation of its unique flora. The climatic changes that are currently taking place may seriously affect the Arctic tundra. According to Andrei Erst, a senior researcher at the CSBS SB RAS, “If we understand the stages of development, we will have a key to the history and origin of the low-temperature floras of the Northern Hemisphere. In addition, we will be able to suggest which plant species should be preserved and what to do for this purpose”.
Further research will focus on the relationship between the plant life of the Arctic and the Himalayas. The climatic conditions and plant species in these regions are similar, so studying their relationship may shed light on the evolution of the Arctic flora.
The Arctic tundra is a unique ecosystem that is highly adaptable to harsh conditions. The living organisms that inhabit this region are able to survive low temperatures and strong seasonal fluctuations. However, global warming and other climatic changes may seriously threaten this unique flora.