Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dynamics behind Arctic ecosystems revealed

Date:
March 27, 2014
Source:
Aarhus University
Summary:
Species such as the musk ox, Arctic fox and lemming live in the harsh, cold and deserted tundra environment. However, they have often been in the spotlight when researchers have studied the impact of a warmer climate on the countryside in the north. Until now, the focus has been concentrated on individual species, but an international team of biologists has now published an important study of entire food-web dynamics.

A major new research project has revealed what controls the food net in the vulnerable Arctic tundra. Surprisingly, the researchers found parallels to a completely different climatic region – the savannah.
Credit: Niels Martin Schmidt

Species such as the musk ox, Arctic fox and lemming live in the harsh, cold and deserted tundra environment. However, they have often been in the spotlight when researchers have studied the impact of a warmer climate on the countryside in the north. Until now, the focus has been concentrated on individual species, but an international team of biologists has now published an important study of entire food-web dynamics in the journal Nature Climate Change. Field studies covering three continents show that temperature has an unexpectedly important effect on food-web structure, while the relationship between predator and prey is crucial for the food-web dynamics and thereby the entire ecosystem.

Temperature is decisive

'We have gathered data on all animals and plants characterising the arctic tundra in seven different areas. This has allowed us to generate a picture of how food chains vary over a very large geographical (and, with it, climatic) gradient. Therefore, and for the first time, we can offer an explanation of the factors governing the tundra as an ecosystem,' says Niels Martin Schmidt from Aarhus University, Denmark, one of the researchers behind the study. The researchers have evidenced that temperature is of decisive importance for which elements form part of the food chain, thus permitting them to predict how climate changes may impact whole food chains -- and not just the conditions for the individual species.

The largest avoids being eaten

Temperature regulates which organisms interact with each other in the far north arctic nature. However, the present study also shows that predation, i.e. the interactions between predators and prey, is the factor regulating the energy flows in ecosystems and, with that, the function of the ecosystem.

'Our results show that predators are the most important items of the tundra food chains, except in the High Arctic. The intensity varies with the body size of the herbivores (plant eaters) of the chains. For example, the musk ox is far more likely to avoid being eaten by predatory animals than the lemming,' Niels Martin Schmidt explains.

Researchers have previously revealed similar patterns for the food chains of the African savannas. The researchers behind the present recently published study therefore believe that we may possibly be one step closer to proposing a general principle for how terrestrial ecosystems are structured.

Facts about the project

  • Collecting data for the project took place at seven locations in Canada, Greenland, Russia and Norway.
  • Nine research nations were involved in the project, which was launched under the title 'The International Polar Year' (2007-2009).
  • Based on the data collection, the researchers prepared models of the food net, which show the flow of energy and nutrients.

Facts about the tundra

  • The tundra is a habitat found in the far north of North America, Europe and Asia.
  • The word tundra comes from the Sami expression tūndar, which means 'flat hill', and the tundra countryside is characterised by shrubs and mosses, rather than large trees.
  • The tundra is inhabited by predators that prey on hares and small rodents in particular. Breeding migratory birds visit the tundra in summer, while the bird life is more scarce in winter.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Aarhus University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. Legagneux, G. Gauthier, N. Lecomte, N. M. Schmidt, D. Reid, M-C. Cadieux, D. Berteaux, J. Bêty, C. J. Krebs, R. A. Ims, N. G. Yoccoz, R. I. G. Morrison, S. J. Leroux, M. Loreau, D. Gravel. Arctic ecosystem structure and functioning shaped by climate and herbivore body size. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2168

Cite This Page:

Aarhus University. "Dynamics behind Arctic ecosystems revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327111726.htm>.
Aarhus University. (2014, March 27). Dynamics behind Arctic ecosystems revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327111726.htm
Aarhus University. "Dynamics behind Arctic ecosystems revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327111726.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) — New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) — A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) — A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) — As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
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