, Volume 128, Issue 1, pp 1-14

First online:

Ecological effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation

  • Geir OttersenAffiliated withInstitute of Marine Research, P.O. Box 1870 Nordnes, 5024 Bergen, Norway
  • , Benjamin PlanqueAffiliated withIFREMER, Laboratoire d'Ecologie Halieutique, BP 21105, 44311 Nantes, Cedex 03, France
  • , Andrea BelgranoAffiliated withKristineberg Marine Research Station, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 2130 Kristineberg, 450 34 Fiskebäckskil, Sweden
  • , Eric PostAffiliated with208 Mueller Lab, Department of Biology, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802-5301, USA
  • , Philip C. ReidAffiliated withSir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS), 1 Walker Terrace, Plymouth, PL1 3BN, UK
  • , Nils C. StensethAffiliated withDivision of Zoology, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, P.O Box 1050 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway

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Climatic oscillations as reflected in atmospheric modes such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) may be seen as a proxy for regulating forces in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Our review highlights the variety of climate processes related to the NAO and the diversity in the type of ecological responses that different biological groups can display. Available evidence suggests that the NAO influences ecological dynamics in both marine and terrestrial systems, and its effects may be seen in variation at the individual, population and community levels. The ecological responses to the NAO encompass changes in timing of reproduction, population dynamics, abundance, spatial distribution and interspecific relationships such as competition and predator-prey relationships. This indicates that local responses to large-scale changes may be more subtle than previously suggested. We propose that the NAO effects may be classified as three types: direct, indirect and integrated. Such a classification will help the design and interpretation of analyses attempting to relate ecological changes to the NAO and, possibly, to climate in general.

North Atlantic Oscillation Climate Marine ecosystem Terrestrial ecosystem Population ecology