A recent study revealed that a large part of the lakes in the Arctic regions have shrunk in surface area over the past 20 years, which would be a consequence of global warming and the melting of permafrost.
Led by American researchers, the study, which is based on satellite images of a large portion of the Arctic space in Russia, Alaska, Greenland, Canada and the Nordic countries, covering the period from 2000 to 2021, showed a decrease in the size of lakes, or even a complete drying up of water bodies, in 82% of the study area.
A prevailing theory was that tundra lakes would gradually increase in area over the course of this century due to accelerated warming and melting permafrost, notes the team of Elizabeth Webb, a biologist at the University of Florida, cited by media.
However, the researchers note in this study that it is rather the opposite that occurs. They argue that permafrost thaw helps shrink the surface area of lakes by creating drainage channels and increasing soil erosion at the bottom of water bodies.
Lakes make up between 20 and 40 percent of the Arctic lowlands, forming the cornerstones of the Arctic ecosystem, scientists point out. They represent an essential source of fresh water for local indigenous communities and industries. Many threatened or endangered species, including migratory birds and fish, also depend on the habitats of these lakes for their survival, the researchers note.
” Our results suggest that permafrost thaw is happening even faster than previously predicted. [la communauté scientifique]. It also indicates that the area is likely on the way to large-scale drainage.“, observed Elizabeth Webb.