Siberian Environmental Change: overview of recent studies and opportunities for networking

Siberia is a huge landmass stretching 7,500 km from the Ural Mountains in the West to the Pacific coast in the East. Its area is 13.1 million km2 yet its population density is low with only 36 million people. It contains a great diversity of people, environments, biomes and landforms stretching from semi-desert in the South, through glaciated mountains, steppes and taiga, to tundra and polar desert in the North connected through major river systems. Siberia has the world’s largest wetland system and one of the greatest forested areas.

A recent multidisciplinary compilation of studies on changes in the Siberian environment detail how climate is changing faster than most places on Earth with exceptional warming in the North and increased aridity in the South. Impacts of these changes are rapid permafrost thaw and melt of glaciers, increased flooding, extreme weather events leading to sudden changes in biodiversity, increased forest fires, more insect pest outbreaks and increased emissions of CO2 and methane. These trends interact with sociological changes leading to land use change, globalisation of diets, impaired health of Arctic Peoples, and challenges for transport. Mitigation and adaptation measures are likely to be limited by a range of public perceptions of climate change that vary according to gender, employment, age and education. Although perceptions and meteorological observations do not always match, Indigenous Knowledge is making important contributions to documenting change while public needs for better information from science are focusing research efforts.

Many of the environmental changes in Siberia have global significance and require international, collaborative research. The Siberian Environmental Change Network (SecNet) links 47 institutions, researchers, decision makers and Indigenous Peoples and welcomes collaboration. EU-funded INTERACT, networks 89 northern research stations that together host 18,000 visitors each year. INTERACT has funded over 1,000 research visits that include visits to Siberian and other northern Russian research stations. Both SecNet and INTERACT provide key connections to the practicality and science of collaboration in Siberia.