Climate change and the ecology and evolution of Arctic vertebrates

Authors


Olivier Gilg, Laboratoire Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 5561, Equipe Ecologie Evolutive, 6 Boulevard Gabriel, 21000 Dijon, France. olivier.gilg@gmail.com

Abstract

Climate change is taking place more rapidly and severely in the Arctic than anywhere on the globe, exposing Arctic vertebrates to a host of impacts. Changes in the cryosphere dominate the physical changes that already affect these animals, but increasing air temperatures, changes in precipitation, and ocean acidification will also affect Arctic ecosystems in the future. Adaptation via natural selection is problematic in such a rapidly changing environment. Adjustment via phenotypic plasticity is therefore likely to dominate Arctic vertebrate responses in the short term, and many such adjustments have already been documented. Changes in phenology and range will occur for most species but will only partly mitigate climate change impacts, which are particularly difficult to forecast due to the many interactions within and between trophic levels. Even though Arctic species richness is increasing via immigration from the South, many Arctic vertebrates are expected to become increasingly threatened during this century.

Ancillary