Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rapid changes for Arctic flora and fauna

Date:
June 14, 2010
Source:
International Polar Year - Oslo Science Conference
Summary:
Unique Arctic habitats for flora and fauna, including sea ice, tundra, lakes, and peatlands have been disappearing over recent decades, and some characteristic Arctic species have shown a decline. The changes in Arctic Biodiversity have global repercussions and are further creating challenges for people living in the Arctic.

Polar bear. Polar bears are highly specialized for and dependent on sea ice for their habitat. Therefore they are particularly sensitive and vulnerable to the documented significant reductions in sea ice cover in parts of the Arctic and to the thinning of multi-year ice in the polar basin.
Credit: iStockphoto/Erlend Kvalsvik

Unique Arctic habitats for flora and fauna, including sea ice, tundra, lakes, and peatlands have been disappearing over recent decades, and some characteristic Arctic species have shown a decline. The changes in Arctic Biodiversity have global repercussions and are further creating challenges for people living in the Arctic.

Arctic Biodiversity -- affected by multiple stressors

The Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010 Report, produced by some of the world's leading experts of Arctic ecosystems and biodiversity, is the Arctic Council's contribution to the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity in 2010 and will be a preliminary product under the Arctic Council project 'Arctic Biodiversity Assessment' (ABA).

In 2008, the United Nations Environment Program passed a resolution expressing 'extreme concern' over the impacts of climate change on Arctic indigenous peoples, other communities, and biodiversity. It highlighted the potentially significant consequences of changes in the Arctic. The Arctic Biodiversity Trends -- 2010: Selected Indicators of Change report indicates that some of those anticipated impacts on Arctic biodiversity are already occurring.

The report is based on twenty-two indicators and provides a snapshot of the trends being observed in Arctic biodiversity today. The polar bear is one of the most well-known species impacted by changes in the Arctic, but it is not the only one. The indicators show that the Arctic has changed dramatically during recent decades and that unique Arctic habitats for flora and fauna are disappearing. Furthermore, some species of importance to Arctic people or species of global attention are declining.

The report presents a broad spectrum of changes in the Arctic ecosystems and biodiversity.

  • Polar bears are highly specialized for and dependent on sea ice for their habitat. Therefore they are particularly sensitive and vulnerable to the documented significant reductions in sea ice cover in parts of the Arctic and to the thinning of multi-year ice in the polar basin. Status and trends for many populations are not available, but research on some populations demonstrates that they have decreased over the past several decades, and population and habitat modelling have projected substantial future declines in the distribution and abundance of polar bears.
  • The vegetation comprising tundra ecosystems -- various species of grasses, sedges, mosses, and lichens -- are, in some places, being replaced by species typical of more southern locations, such as evergreen shrubs.
  • Trees are beginning to encroach on the tundra at its southern margin and some models project that by 2100 the tree line will have advanced north by as much as 500 km, resulting in a loss of 51% of tundra habitat.
  • In recent years, on average, the southern limit of permafrost in northern peatlands has retreated by 39 km and by as much as 200 km in some parts of Arctic. Peatlands are significant for the floristic diversity of the Arctic because their species comprise 20-30% of the Arctic and sub-Arctic flora. Moreover, many bird species with conservation priority are strongly associated with tundra and mire habitats.
  • Cold water coral reefs, coral gardens, and sponge aggregations provide a habitat for a variety of fish and invertebrates and thus represent biodiversity hotspots in the Arctic seas. These habitats are vulnerable to fisheries and other human activities such as oil and gas exploration.

Depending on the magnitude of these and other changes, certain ecosystems may no longer be considered 'Arctic'. The result may be that many of the species thriving in the Arctic today are not able to survive there in the future.

A key finding in the Report is that climate change is emerging as the most far-reaching and significant stressor on Arctic biodiversity, though contaminants, habitat change, industrial development, and unsustainable harvest levels continue to have impacts.

The importance of Arctic ecosystems for biodiversity is immense and therefore a more thorough examination of the state of affairs is needed. Thus, leading Arctic scientists are currently engaged in making a full and comprehensive Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, which is expected to be completed in 2013.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by International Polar Year - Oslo Science Conference. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

International Polar Year - Oslo Science Conference. "Rapid changes for Arctic flora and fauna." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100609094134.htm>.
International Polar Year - Oslo Science Conference. (2010, June 14). Rapid changes for Arctic flora and fauna. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100609094134.htm
International Polar Year - Oslo Science Conference. "Rapid changes for Arctic flora and fauna." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100609094134.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins