Academic Minute
5:00 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Dr. Hans Meltofte, Aarhus University - Arctic Biodiversity Threatened By Climate Change

Rising temperatures are threatening the biodiversity of the Arctic.

Dr. Hans Meltofte, senior scientist at Denmark's Aarhus University, describes the negative impact of climate change in this area as "already visible" and details the serious ecological consequences that are resulting.

Dr. Hans Meltofte is a senior advisor and senior scientists in Aarhus University's Department of Bioscience. He has written extensively on ecological and conservation matters and been involved with research and monitoring particularly on waders (shorebirds), waterfowl and seabirds in the Arctic and northern Europe for more than 30 years. He earned his doctorate in science from the University of Copenhagen.

About Dr. Meltofte

Dr. Meltofte discusses climate change in Greenland

Hans Meltofte - Arctic biodiversity threatened by climate change

The Arctic is home to a diversity of highly adapted animals, plants and fungi. From the iconic polar bear and elusive narwhal to the tiny Arctic flowers and lichens that paint the treeless tundra in the summer months.

The unique Arctic biodiversity is now seriously at risk due to global warming primarily caused by expulsion of greenhouse gases. This is because temperatures are expected to increase more in the Arctic than elsewhere in the world probably surpassing the climate perturbations that Arctic wildlife has survived in the past.

We expect that climate change could shrink Arctic ecosystems on land, as northward moving species are pressing them up against the Arctic Ocean in what is called “Arctic squeeze”. As a result, the high Arctic with its endemic species may disappear or only survive in alpine or island refuges.

Climate change impacts are already visible in several parts of the Arctic. These include northward range expansions of many species, earlier snow melt, earlier sea ice break-up and melting permafrost.

Arctic biodiversity is important for many reasons.  For Arctic peoples, biodiversity is a vital part of their material and spiritual existence. Arctic fisheries and tourism have global importance.  Millions of migratory Arctic birds and mammals connect the Arctic to virtually all parts of the globe.  Unique ecosystems of tundra, wetlands, mountains, shallow ocean shelves and huge seabird cliffs are characteristic to the Arctic.

All this is now at stake.

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