Arctic Ecosystems Changing, May be Irreversible
The dramatic changes sweeping the Arctic as a result of global warming aren't just confined to melting sea ice and polar bears — a new study finds that the forces of climate change are propagating throughout the frigid north, producing different effects in each ecosystem with the upshot that the face of the Arctic may be forever altered.
"The Arctic as we know it may be a thing of the past," said Eric Post of Penn State, who led an international team that brought together research on the effects of climate change from ecosystems across the Arctic.
The study, detailed in the Sept. 11 issue of the journal Science, is one of the first to knit together and bring light to the details of the multitude of changes from across the region.
"Usually, when people talk about declines in the Arctic, they show a figure with declining sea ice extent and then show a picture of a polar bear. This study tries to move beyond such recourse by citing the wide array of papers that quantify ecological decline in the Arctic," said Ken Caldeira of Stanford University, who was not involved in the study. "I know of no similar paper that brings together such a wealth of scholarship on the state of Arctic ecosystems."
While the Earth on average has warmed by about 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 degrees Celsius) over the past 150 years, the Arctic has warmed by two to three times that amount.
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