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Constant climate change in the Arctic

Calf muskoxen near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
[Image courtesy of Eric Post]

The region of Earth surrounding the North Pole is known as the Arctic, and researchers say that rapid climate change is disturbing the ecosystems there at a very rapid pace. Across all kinds of ecosystems in the Arctic on land, in fresh water, and in salt water life is changing dramatically.

Eric Post and a team of researchers have collected data from a worldwide research effort, and they say that the effects of climate change are very quickly warming up large portions of the Arctic and that more research is desperately needed in order to understand the effects of this climate change on the animals that live there.

Arctic fox near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
[Image courtesy of Eric Post]

The researchers say that most of the species affected by global warming in the Arctic are the ones that depend on the ice there for food, protection, and reproduction. Some examples of animals whose ecosystems are being threatened by the warming climate are the hooded seal, the ringed seal, the Pacific walrus, the narwhal, and the polar bear. Their habitats are changing rapidly along with the climate in the Arctic.

Post and his colleagues also say that the ice is melting and that the spring season is coming earlier each year in the Arctic. Flowering plants and different kinds of animals are also showing up earlier than they normally do.

In response to these conclusions, this team of researchers suggests that conservation, as well as understanding species' interactions and their "tipping points," should be the main goals of future Arctic research.

Since the rapid climate-related changes affecting the Arctic may be a sign of what's to come at lower latitudes in the future, Post and his colleagues hope that their report will spread awareness and inspire international action to understand the ecological effects of climate change in the Arctic and in other areas of the world as well.


This research appears in the 11 September 2009 issue of Science.