Impact Of Climatic Change On Arctic Ecosystem
Climatic change due to global warming is much severe and faster on arctic ecosystem than most other parts of the world. It is the most little resistant ecosystem. The impact of climatic change in arctic ecosystem is not local, but a global problem.
Disappearence of Summer Sea Cap
As the average global temperature is increasing, the glaciers, sea icecaps and snow melts. The shiny ice and snow in the arctic region has the ability to reflect the sun's energy back into the space. The permafrost –the subsurface soil that remains below freezing for two or more consecutive years – releases large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide on the exposure to the atmosphere. Also the water and rocks absorbs the heat from radiation which in turn results in the overall increase of annual global temperature (ALBEDO EFFECT). This further affects the ecosystems worldwide.
The basic metabolic activities of the arctic vegetation are performed on or below 0oC. The temperature shift severely affects the character and structure of vegetation which were adapted to grow in the cold climatic condition. There will be a shift in the southern species to north suppressing the species and affecting the organisms that depends on them. The symbiotic relationship between insects and plants gets disturbed as increased temperature favors early blooming.
When vegetation is affected, the animal species linked to it through the food chain also gets affected. Herbivores in arctic region such as musk oxen, reindeer, lemmings and hares depend plants for their food. The wolverines, wolves and arctic foxes which prey on these herbivores also suffer due to the sudden changing climatic pattern.
Sea Level Rise
The increased melting of glaciers, snow and icecaps due to the increase in temperature results in global sea level rise. On the disappearance of Ice forms which acts as natural breakwater against storms results in occurrence more number of severe storms and is followed by coastal inundation, erosion and sedimentation processes.
The animals such as Seals and walruses use the ice for breeding purpose and polar bears makes use of the ice for hunting fish and seals. The increased melting of ice caps reduces their natural range – location in which they can survive and reproduce – thereby decreasing their population leading to extinction.
The fish stock in the arctic region during spring depends on algae blooms for their food. The Net Primary Productivity of the aquatic life decreases due to the increase in temperature. Absence of favorable condition for living compels them to migrate northward. It is also seen that the whales are benefited from melting of ice, as it extends their habitat. The formation of water by melting of snow increases the absorption of CO2, which decreases the pH value of water. This acidity affects the coral reefs and crustaceans.
They are also affected by the climatic change, but only in a lesser way. They are the most adaptive forms. The migratory birds whose stopover sites are on the arctic system are more prone due to the imbalance in the ecosystem. Nesting will be difficult in this changing weather conditions.
Energy Flow And Nutrient Cycling
The very existence of an ecosystem depends on the energy flow and nutrient cycling. The climate has a vital role in controlling these ecosystem processes. Any imperfection in the energy flow and nutrient cycling severely affects the ecosystem.
The increased temperature favors pathogens and such microorganisms to grow and multiply rapidly. This may affect the plant and other species in the arctic ecosystem. Chances of occurrence of several diseases also has a negative impact on the ecosystem.