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Arctic climate shifts drive rapid ecosystem responses across the West Greenland landscape

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Steve Juggins, Dr Jon Telling



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Prediction of high latitude response to climate change is hampered by poor understanding of the role of nonlinear changes in ecosystem forcing and response. While the effects of nonlinear climate change are often delayed or dampened by internal ecosystem dynamics, recent warming events in the Arctic have driven rapid environmental response, raising questions of how terrestrial and freshwater systems in this region may shift in response to abrupt climate change. We quantified environmental responses to recent abrupt climate change in West Greenland using long-term monitoring and paleoecological reconstructions. Using >40 years of weather data, we found that after 1994, mean June air temperatures shifted 2.2ºC higher and mean winter precipitation doubled from 21 to 40 mm; since 2006, mean July air temperatures shifted 1.1ºC higher. Nonlinear environmental responses occurred with or shortly after these abrupt climate shifts, including increasing ice sheet discharge, increasing dust, advancing plant phenology, and in lakes, earlier ice out and greater diversity of algal functional traits. Our analyses reveal rapid environmental responses to nonlinear climate shifts, underscoring the highly responsive nature of Arctic ecosystems to abrupt transitions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Saros J, Anderson NJ, Juggins S, McGowan S, Yde JC, Telling J, Yallop M, Heathcote A, Burpee B, Fowler R, Barry C, Northington R, Osburn CL, Pla S, Mernild SH, Whiteford E, Andrews G, Kerby J, Post E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Research Letters

Year: 2019

Volume: 14

Issue: 7

Online publication date: 16/07/2019

Acceptance date: 12/06/2019

Date deposited: 16/07/2019

ISSN (electronic): 1748-9326

Publisher: Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab2928


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