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Climate- and Human- Induced Land Cover Change and its Effects on the Permafrost System in the Lower Yenisei River of the Russian Arctic Open Access

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Climate warming is occurring at an unprecedented rate in the Arctic, seriously impacting sensitive environments, and triggering land cover change. These changes are compounded by localized human influences. This work classifies land cover change for the Lower Yenisei River, identifies those changes that were climate- and anthropogenic- induced, and discusses the implications for the underlying permafrost system. This is accomplished using a modified version of the “Landsat dense time stacking” methodology for three time periods spanning 29 years that are representative of Russian socio-economic transitions during the mid- to late-1980s (1985-1987), the early 2000s (2000-2002), and the contemporary 2010s (2012-2014). The classified area includes three cities indicative of different post-Soviet socio-economic situations, including continued population and infrastructure decline (Igarka), a relatively stable community (Dudinka), and a community receiving local reinvestment (Norilsk). The land cover classification, in tandem with regional climate reanalysis data, enabled climate- and anthropogenic- induced changes to be identified, characterized, and quantified. Climatic changes within the natural environments have produced a steady greening effect throughout the study area, as well as an increase in large lake abundance, indicative of permafrost degradation. Pollution, in close proximity to heavy industrial activity, caused a secondary plant succession process. The results of this work provide both map products that can be applied to future research in this region, as well as insights into the impacts of the warming climate and human presence on sensitive Arctic environments.

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