How Climate Change is Negatively Affecting Arctic Ecosystems

Categories: Climate Change

The effects of climate change on arctic ecosystems have been a subject of research for half a century (Ivy, Diane J.) 

Climate change affects different things in the arctic ecosystems like increasing carbon dioxide, glacial retreat, and permafrost thawing (Klimesová, Jitka.) All of these factors affect very important components of the arctic ecosystem. One of these components would be vegetation. Another component would be animal life. These two components are dependent on each other and the climate change is affecting their symbiotic relationship.

There is now a phenomenon in the arctic ecosystems called polar amplification. This means that any net radiation change, like greenhouse intensification, is producing a larger change in temperature near the poles (Lesins Glen, author, author Duck Thomas J., and author Drummond James R.) This is making the components of this ecosystem, like the animals and vegetation, more sensitive to change in temperature. In some ecosystems, animals and vegetations adapt to temperature change because of different seasons.

However, arctic ecosystems are known to be very cold at all times. Because of this, even the tiniest change in temperature can change things like sea ice volume, ice/snow production, and surface energy (Lesins Glen, author, author Duck Thomas J., and author Drummond James R.)

Rising temperatures are increasing carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. These organic deposits are buried. Permafrost is a layer of soil that remains frozen throughout the whole year. This layer of soil usually contains the organic deposits underneath it. However, with rising temperatures, the permafrost is melting.

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Because the permafrost is melting, the carbon dioxide and methane are being released into the atmosphere. This is decreasing the amount of vegetation in the ecosystems, therefore there is less available food for the animal life in these arctic ecosystems.

Freshwater is a large part of the arctic ecosystem. Unfortunately, the aquatic part of the arctic ecosystem is being targeted due to climate change. Fish are also a large part of the ecosystem due to the fact that they live in the aquatic part. There are different kinds of species of fish that are able to adapt to the temperature of water. Nevertheless, this is usually in the context of season change. With the rapid temperature changes due to climate changes, the animal life in freshwater is having a difficult time adapting. The loss of permafrost contributes to aquatic life as well because it increases flooding (Reist, James D., Frederick J. Wrona, Terry D. Prowse, Michael Power, and et al.)

One symbiotic relationship that is being threatened in the arctic because of climate change is the relationship between plants and insects. This is referred to as insect pollination. The warmer temperature may cause flowers to appear earlier, therefore throwing off the timing and cycle of the insects being able to pollinate. Without pollination, vegetation will begin to deteriorate. This will cause a huge problem for the herbivores that live in this ecosystem. Because these animals will start to become endangered, that will then affect the lives of predators because their food source will be limited.

There is a huge change in surface energy. In the arctic ecosystem, the surface that is usually needed is ice covered. Some animals thrive on top of the ice, some thrive underneath. Unfortunately, there is a significant amount of sea ice loss due to the warming temperature. (Lesins Glen, author, author Duck Thomas J., and author Drummond James R. ) There are four different factors in the arctic that explain polar amplification. One would be a larger change in net downward radiation at the arctic surface compared to the global average. Two would be a larger conductive heat flux change than the global average. The next factor would be weaker sensible and latent heat flux responses that result in a larger surface temperature response in the arctic. The final factor would be a colder skin temperature to the global average (Lesins Glen, author, author Duck Thomas J., and author Drummond James R.) Determining the factors of the polar amplification will help try and solve the magnitudes of mechanisms to assess the climate changes ( Lesins Glen, author, author Duck Thomas J., and author Drummond James R.)


Climate change is bringing in warmer weather. In some ecosystems, this would be easier to deal with. However, with the rapid changes occuring in the arctic, it is hard for the vegetation and animal life to survive. These animals and plants adapt to the cold weather, and because the temperatures are rising so quickly, these organisms will not be able to keep up. If climate change continues at this rate, the arctic ecosystems will become scarce. Figuring out a way to help with surface energy problems will also aid in saving the arctic ecosystems.


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How Climate Change is Negatively Affecting Arctic Ecosystems. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from

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