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Arctic rain-on-snow events tilt the ecological playing field

Caption: Arctic foxes in Svalbard will have more than enough food during rainy and icy winters because there will be many reindeer carcasses for them to eat. The next winter, however, the fox population size will be reduced because a robust and small reindeer population will mean many few deaths and hence, very little carrion.Credit: Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology

Arctic foxes in Svalbard will feel the effects of global warming, as rain-on-snow events change the abundance of prey animals. Photo by Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology.

Norwegian researchers document cascading environmental impacts

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Norwegian scientists say they’ve observed how climate-linked extreme weather events have affected not just single species, but an entire ecological community in the Arctic.

Rain-on-snow events caused synchronized population fluctuations among all vertebrate species in a relatively simple high arctic community, the scientists said after documenting how populations of three species crashed at the same time.

These findings, published in the Jan. 18 issue of Science, may be a bellwether of the radical changes in ecosystem stability that could result from anticipated future increases in extreme events.  Continue reading

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Global warming to disrupt Arctic species migration

Arctic foxes. Photo courtesy Yvonne Cox.

Study shows impacts to Arcit fox populations

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s very likely that human-caused global warming will disrupt the natural cycles of glaciation that have prevailed in recent millennia, and that could spell trouble for species that have relied on bridges of sea ice to maintain genetic diversity.

That includes Arctic foxes that were able to colonize Iceland during the Little Ice, according to research by scientists at the UK’s Durham University, who said that Arctic foxes were able to migrate to Iceland from Russia, North America and Greenland when such a bridge formed, between 200 and 500 years ago.

Iceland’s population of about 10,000 arctic foxes is not at risk, the researchers said, but explained that increasing isolation from the rest of the Arctic, caused by warmer temperatures and a lack of sea ice, could further differentiate the island’s population from their mainland relatives. Continue reading

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