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Scientists seek new emphases in Arctic climate change research
Date:9/10/2009

FAIRBANKS, Alaska Much of circumpolar Arctic research focuses on the physical, direct changes resulting from climate warming such as sea ice retreat and temperature increases. "What's understudied is the living component of the Arctic and that includes humans," said Syndonia "Donie" Bret-Harte, associate professor of biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and co-author of a paper to be published September 11, 2009 in the journal Science.

The paper reviews current knowledge on the ecological consequences of climate change on the circumpolar Arctic and issues a call for action in several areas of global climate change research.

"Humans live in the Arctic with plants and animals and we care about the ecosystem services such as filtering water, fiber and food production and cultural values that the Arctic provides" said Bret-Harte, who specializes in Arctic plant ecology in Alaska.

The global average surface temperature has increased by 0.72 F (0.4 C) over the past 150 years and the average Arctic temperature is expected to increase by 6 C. "That's a mind bogglingly large change to contemplate and keep in mind that no one lives at the average temperature," Bret-Harte said.

The international team of scientists who collaborated on this paper reviewed dozens of research documents on the effects of circumpolar Arctic warming. They note that numerous direct effects including lengthening of growing season following a rapid spring melt, earlier plant flowering and appearance of insects following a warmer spring, deaths of newborn seal pups following melting of their under-snow birthing chambers have other, often more subtle, indirect effects on plants, animals and humans that warrants increased attention.

Understanding how changes in plant and animal populations affect each other and how they affect the physical or nonliving components of the Arctic is critical to understanding how climate warming will change t
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Contact: Marie Gilbert
megilbert@alaska.edu
907-474-7412
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Source:Eurekalert

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