KINGSTON, Ontario, May 16 (UPI) -- Canadian researchers say global climate change is having a striking ecological impact on the country's arctic coastline, eroding land and killing vegetation.
"One of the most ominous threats of global warming today is from rising sea levels, which can cause marine waters to inundate the land," Queen's University graduate student Joshua Thienpont said. "The threat is especially acute in polar regions, where shrinking sea ice increases the risk of storm surges."
Researchers looking at the impact of salt water flooding on alder bushes along the coastline from a 1999 storm surge found half of the shrubs sampled had died within a year of the surge, while an additional 37 percent died within five years, a university release reported Monday.
"This had been predicted by all the models and now we have empirical evidence," Carlton University geology Professor Michael Pisaric said.
A decade after the flood, the soils still contained high concentrations of salt, the researchers said, and sediment core profiles from inland lakes revealed dramatic changes in the aquatic life with a significant shift from fresh to saltwater species following the storm surge.
"Our findings show this is ecologically unprecedented over the last millennium," Queen's biology Professor John Smol said.
"The arctic is on the front line of climate change. It's a bellwether of things to come: What affects the arctic eventually will affect us all."