Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Publication Date
21 May 2012

Article by Bonfils et al. chosen as IOP Select Paper


A recent article authored by Céline Bonfils et al., titled "On the influence of shrub height and expansion on northern high latitude climate," was chosen as an Institute of Physics (IOP) Select Paper for its focus on the dynamics of arctic and sub-arctic vegetation. Because there is observational evidence that boreal trees and shrubs are invading tundra regions due to global warming at high latitudes, the authors conducted a series of idealized experiments using the Community Climate System Model. They determined that an invasion of tall shrubs tends to systematically warm the soil, deepen the active layer, and destabilize the permafrost more substantially than short shrubs.

Results from the experiments also showed shrub expansion leads to atmospheric heating through albedo and evapo-transpiration feedbacks, and the strength and timing of these feedbacks are sensitive to shrub height. The study highlights the significant warming influence of high-latitude vegetation changes, which should be included in climate simulations. Their findings were first published in Environmental Research Letters.

IOP is a leading scientific society promoting physics. With a worldwide membership of about 40,000 physicists from all sectors, IOP works to advance physics research, application, and education. In addition, IOP engages with policy makers and the public to develop awareness and understanding of physics. Its publishing company, IOP Publishing, is a world leader in professional scientific communications, publishing over 60 journals. IOP Select Papers are chosen by IOP editors "for their novelty, significance and potential impact on future research."


Bonfils CJW, TJ Phillips, DM Lawrence, P Cameron-Smith, WJ Riley, and ZM Subin. 2012. “On the influence of shrub height and expansion on northern high latitude climate.” Environmental Research Letters 7(1):015503. DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/015503.

Funding Program Area(s)