1932

Abstract

The Earth is warming, especially in polar areas in which winter temperatures and precipitation are expected to increase. Despite a growing research focus on winter climatic change, the impacts on Arctic terrestrial ecosystems remain poorly understood. Snow acts as an insulator, and depth changes affect the enhancement of thermally dependent reactions, such as microbial activity, affecting soil nutrient composition, respiration, and winter gas efflux. Snow depth and spring temperatures influence snowmelt timing, determining the start of plant growth and forage availability. Delays in winter onset affect tundra carbon balance, faunal hibernation, and migration but are unlikely to lengthen the plant growing season. Mild periods in winter followed by a return to freezing have negative consequences for plants and invertebrates, and the resultant ice layers act as barriers to foraging, triggering starvation of herbivores and their predators. In summary, knock-on effects between seasons and trophic levels have important consequences for biological activity, diversity, and ecosystem function.

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2014-11-23
2024-06-17
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