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 user 2007-06-19 at 10:16:00 am Views: 55
  • #18331

    Arctic spring’s ‘rapid advance’
    Spring in the Arctic is arriving “weeks earlier” than a decade ago, a team of Danish researchers have reported.
    in north-east Greenland is melting an average of 14.6 days earlier than
    in the mid-1990s, bringing forward the date plants flower and birds lay
    eggs.The team warned that the observed changes could disrupt the
    region’s ecosystems and food chain, affecting the long-term survival of
    some species.

    The findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.
    scientists assessed how a range of species’ behaviour was affected by
    the changing climate in Zackenberg, north-east Greenland, between 1996
    and 2005.Observation of 21 species – six plants, 12 arthropods and
    three birds – revealed that the organisms had brought forward their
    flowering, emergence or egg-laying in line with the earlier ice
    melt.”We were particularly surprised to see the trends were so strong
    when considering that the entire summer is very short in the High
    Arctic – just three or four months from snowmelt to freeze-up,” said
    co-author Toke Hoye, from the University of Aarhus.”The real deciding
    factor is that each individual time series has a very close
    correlation, so it is not just that the average trend is very similar
    but each species is closely coupled (to the ice melt).”

    Winner and losers
    Hoye suggested that the warming in the region, which was occurring at
    twice the rate of the global average, could affect the future stability
    of the region’s ecosystem.”There could be positive consequences in the
    short term, and potentially negative consequences in the long term.”At
    first, this could be regarded as a positive result because it is
    extending the summer season, which is probably a factor in terms of
    organisms getting through their development.”Over the long term, it is
    most likely to be the case that species from southern latitudes will be
    able to establish themselves (in the region) and increase competition
    for food.”Dr Hoye acknowledged that the 10-year period could be
    considered by some people as not long enough to reach these
    conclusions.But he added the changes in behaviour had been observed in
    a large number of species, and that the findings were considered by
    independent reviewers who were satisfied by the consistency of the
    results.”They had hoped for a longer time period, and we did too,” he
    told BBC News.”But until we have managed to gather another 10 years of
    data, it is relevant to make this point now.”He added that the
    findings, described as the first of their kind for the High Arctic,
    extended the global picture of changing behaviour among organisms.In
    August, scientists from 17 nations examined 125,000 studies involving
    561 species across Europe.The researchers found a shift in the
    continent’s seasons, with spring arriving an average of six to eight
    days earlier than it did 30 years ago.