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Arctic biodiversity under serious threat from climate change according to new report

ed upon acceptable limit of warming, is projected to result in vastly more heating in the Arctic with anticipated temperature increases of 2.8-7.8 C this century. Such dramatic changes will likely result in severe damage to Arctic biodiversity.

Climate change impacts are already visible in several parts of the Arctic. These include northward range expansions of many species, earlier snow melt, earlier sea ice break-up and melting permafrost together with development of new oceanic current patterns.

It is expected that climate change could shrink Arctic ecosystems on land, as northward moving changes are pressed against the boundary of the Arctic Ocean: the so called "Arctic squeeze". As a result, Arctic terrestrial ecosystems may disappear in many places, or only survive in alpine or island refuges.

Disappearing sea ice is affecting marine species, changing dynamics in the marine food web and productivities of the sea. Many unique species found only in the Arctic rely on this ice to hunt, rest, breed and/or escape predators.

Other key findings

  • Generally speaking, overharvest is no longer a primary threat, although pressures on some populations remain a serious problem.

  • A variety of contaminants have bioaccumulated in several Arctic predator species to levels that threaten the health and ability to reproduce of both animals and humans. However, it is not clear if this is affecting entire populations of species.

  • Arctic habitats are among the least anthropogenic disturbed on Earth, and huge tracts of almost pristine tundra, mountain, freshwater and marine habitats still exist.

  • Regionally, ocean bottom trawling, non-renewable resource development and other intensive forms of land use pose serious challenges to Arctic biodiversity.

  • Pollution from oil spills at sites of oil and gas development and from oil transport is a serious local level threat particularly in coastal and marine ecosystems.


Contact: DSc. Hans Meltofte
Aarhus University

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Arctic biodiversity under serious threat from climate change according to new report
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