Temporal trends and variability in a high-arctic ecosystem in Greenland: multidimensional analyses of limnic and terrestrial ecosystems

Abstract

The high arctic is undergoing a faster change in climate than most other regions of the planet, with already observed ecological consequences. Combined with the characteristics of high-arctic ecosystems, such as low species redundancy, high seasonality and weather extremes, shifts in individual species performance and phenology may lead to altered interaction dynamics through trophic mismatch and cascades. An ecosystem approach is therefore desirable in the attempt to understand the multidimensional impacts of climate. Here, we present ecosystem-wide trend analyses of a long-term dataset on terrestrial and limnic biota with focus on the distribution of observed trends and associated variation across the ecosystem. We used 114 time series drawn from 11 abiotic variables, 19 terrestrial and 7 limnic biotic species/taxa and compared temporal trends, changes and abrupt shifts in the variation within and across the two biota. A total of 36 % of the time series analysed showed a significant trend during the study period with a higher frequency of trends occurring within performance variables. Overall, the changes tended to be negative, indicating advances in phenology but reduced species performance. General system variance was also higher in the limnic biota than in the terrestrial biota, both exhibiting increasing variance up through the trophic system. Overall, our results suggest that multiple biotic responses to the climatic changes in this high-arctic ecosystem are not synchronised across trophic levels and may differ qualitatively and quantitatively between terrestrial and limnic biota.

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Acknowledgments

The data for this project were provided by the Zackenberg BioBasis programme, and the study was financed by ECOGLOBE, Aarhus University. We would like to thank Jannik Hansen and Lars Holst Hansen for help with the data. This paper is lovingly dedicated to Lotte Mortensen (Mum) for her love of Greenland.

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Correspondence to Lars O. Mortensen.

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Mortensen, L.O., Jeppesen, E., Schmidt, N.M. et al. Temporal trends and variability in a high-arctic ecosystem in Greenland: multidimensional analyses of limnic and terrestrial ecosystems. Polar Biol 37, 1073–1082 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-014-1501-2

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Keywords

  • Arctic ecosystems
  • Temporal variance
  • Temporal trends
  • Trophic interactions
  • Zackenberg
  • Greenland