2018: Arctic researchers have just witnessed another extreme summer-but in a new sense of the word. Although public interest has long been focused on general warming trends and trends towards a lower sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean, this summer saw the realization of another predicted trend: that of increasing precipitation during the winter months and of increased year-to-year variability. In a well-studied ecosystem in Northeast Greenland, this resulted in the most complete reproductive failure encountered in the terrestrial ecosystem during more than two decades of monitoring: only a few animals and plants were able to reproduce because of abundant and late melting snow. These observations, we suggest, should open our eyes to potentially drastic consequences of predicted changes in both the mean and the variability of arctic climate.
Vessel slowdown may be an alternative mitigation option in regions where re-routing shipping corridors to avoid important marine mammal habitat is not possible. We investigated the potential relief in masking in marine mammals and fish from a 10 knot speed reduction of container and cruise ships. The mitigation effect from slower vessels was not equal between ambient sound conditions, species or vessel-type. Under quiet ambient conditions, a speed reduction from 25 to 15 knots resulted in smaller listening space reductions by 16-23%, 10-18%, 1-2%, 5-8% and 8% respectively for belugas, bowheads, bearded seals, ringed seals, and fish, depending on vessel-type. However, under noisy conditions, those savings were between 9 and 19% more, depending on the species. This was due to the differences in species' hearing sensitivities and the low ambient sound levels measured in the study region. Vessel slowdown could be an effective mitigation strategy for reducing masking.
Distribution models were constructed for 36 species of small mammals from South-Eastern Transbaikalia. Distribution of environmental factors (climatic data and remote sensing of the earth surface) in the set of localities where each of the species was caught was taken as initial data for modeling. Species distribution ranges can be explained by distribution of environmental factors only in 30 cases out of 36. Seventeen of them can be explained by one or two environmental factors only. In 6 cases notable influence of historical factors or interspecific competition on present species distribution was found out. For these 6 species, modeling results make it possible to suggest hypotheses about reasons behind present distribution, which could not be advanced without modeling approach.
Wildlife passages are widely used mitigation measures designed to reduce the adverse impacts of roads on animals. We investigated whether road kills of small and medium-sized terrestrial vertebrates can be reduced by constructing dry paths adjacent to streams that pass under road bridges. The study was carried out in southern Finland during the summer of 2008. We selected ten road bridges with dry paths and ten bridges without them, and an individual dry land reference site for each study bridge on the basis of landscape and traffic features. A total of 307 dead terrestrial vertebrates were identified during the ten-week study period. The presence of dry paths decreased the amount of road-killed terrestrial vertebrates (Poisson GLMM; p
In contrast to that of the Pleistocene epoch, between approximately 2.6 million and 10 000 years before present, the extant community of large herbivores in Arctic tundra is species-poor predominantly due to human extinctions. We here discuss how this species-poor herbivore guild influences tundra ecosystems, especially in relation to the rapidly changing climate. We show that present herbivore assemblages have large effects on tundra ecosystem composition and function and suggest that the effect on thermophilic species expected to invade the tundra in a warmer climate is especially strong, and that herbivores slow ecosystem responses to climate change. We focus on the ability of herbivores to drive transitions between different vegetation states. One such transition is between tundra and forest. A second vegetation transition discussed is between grasslands and moss- and shrub-dominated tundra. Contemporary studies show that herbivores can drive such state shifts and that a more diverse herbivore assemblage would have even higher potential to do so. We conclude that even though many large herbivores, and especially the megaherbivores, are extinct, there is a potential to reintroduce large herbivores in many arctic locations, and that doing so would potentially reduce some of the unwanted effects of a warmer climate.This article is part of the theme issue 'Trophic rewilding: consequences for ecosystems under global change'.
The effects of global change on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning encompass multiple complex dynamic processes. Climate change and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are currently regarded as two of the most serious anthropogenic threats to biodiversity and ecosystems. We should, therefore, be especially concerned about the possible effects of EDCs on the ability of Arctic marine mammals and seabirds to adapt to environmental alterations caused by climate change. Relationships between various organochlorine compounds, necessary such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dichlorophenyldichloroethylene, hexachlorobenzene, and oxychlordane, and hormones in Arctic mammals and seabirds imply that these chemicals pose a threat to endocrine systems of these animals. The most pronounced relationships have been reported with the thyroid hormone system, but effects are also seen in sex steroid hormones and cortisol. Even though behavioral and morphological effects of persistent organic pollutants are consistent with endocrine disruption, no direct evidence exists for such relationships. Because different endocrine systems are important for enabling animals to respond adequately to environmental stress, EDCs may interfere with adaptations to increased stress situations. Such interacting effects are likely related to adaptive responses regulated by the thyroid, sex steroid, and glucocorticosteroid systems.
Community and ecosystem changes are happening in the pristine boreal forest ecosystem of the Yukon for 2 reasons. First, climate change is affecting the abiotic environment (temperature, rainfall and growing season) and driving changes in plant productivity and predator-prey interactions. Second, simultaneously change is occurring because of mammal species reintroductions and rewilding. The key ecological question is the impact these faunal changes will have on trophic dynamics. Primary productivity in the boreal forest is increasing because of climatic warming, but plant species composition is unlikely to change significantly during the next 50-100 years. The 9-10-year population cycle of snowshoe hares will persist but could be reduced in amplitude if winter weather increases predator hunting efficiency. Small rodents have increased in abundance because of increased vegetation growth. Arctic ground squirrels have disappeared from the forest because of increased predator hunting efficiency associated with shrub growth. Reintroductions have occurred for 2 reasons: human reintroductions of large ungulates and natural recolonization of mammals and birds extending their geographic ranges. The deliberate rewilding of wood bison (Bison bison) and elk (Cervus canadensis) has changed the trophic structure of this boreal ecosystem very little. The natural range expansion of mountain lions (Puma concolor), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and American marten (Martes americana) should have few ecosystem effects. Understanding potential changes will require long-term monitoring studies and experiments on a scale we rarely deem possible. Ecosystems affected by climate change, species reintroductions and human alteration of habitats cannot remain stable and changes will be critically dependent on food web interactions.