The impacts of climate change on circumpolar biodiversity
Some of the most rapidly changing ecosystems on our planet are located in the polar regions (IPCC 2007; Turner
et al. 2009; SWIPA 2011). In some areas of the Arctic and Antarctic, atmospheric temperatures are rising at rates
more than double the global average. In addition, there are other direct human impacts on polar regions such as
pollution, exploitation and development. Polar ecosystems and the biodiversity they support are already responding
to this change and it is expected that even more profound impacts will occur this century. Compounding the risk to
polar biodiversity is the fact that many polar ecosystems have limited functional redundancy; in the event of
the loss of a single keystone species, they may potentially be exposed to cascading effects and complete ecosystem
restructuring (Post et al. 2009). Rapid climate change affecting the polar regions will also have profound
physical and ecological consequences for the rest of the planet since the ice-covered Arctic Ocean, the Antarctic
continent, and the globally significant Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) serve a key role in regulating the
Earth’s climate and ocean systems.
This special issue is intended to provide an overview of circumpolar change that crosses disciplines, systems,
taxonomic groups and regions, and integrates papers that address a range of topics including: the monitoring of
freshwater, marine, and terrestrial organisms in both the northern and southern polar regions, the role of protected
areas in monitoring change in a warming world, polar resource management and development, impacts on northern
indigenous peoples, case studies of the biodiversity of selected polar organisms, impacts of sea ice loss on terrestrial and marine organisms and ecosystems, interconnections with lower latitudes, and the influence of historical processes that have impacted polar diversity. This keynote paper is intended to provide background and insight into the issue by comparing and contrasting the Arctic and Antarctic regions in terms of their physical environment, human influences, indications of climate change and impacts on their biodiversity.
Authors: Convey, P., Aitken, S., di Prisco, G., Gill, M.J., Coulson, S.J., Barry, T., Jónsdóttir, I.S., Dang, P.T., Hik, D., Kulkarni, T., Lewis, G.