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Arctic spring comes weeks earlier than a decade ago

In the Earths cold and icy far north, the harsh winters are giving way to spring weeks earlier than they did just a decade ago, researchers have reported in the June 19th issue of Current Biology, published by Cell Press. The finding in the Arctic, where the effects of global warming are expected to be most severe, offers an early warning of things to come on the rest of the planet, according to the researchers.

Despite uncertainties in the magnitude of expected global warming over the next century, one consistent feature of extant and projected changes is that Arctic environments are and will be exposed to the greatest warming, said Dr. Toke T. Hye of the National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Denmark. Our study confirms what many people already think, that the seasons are changing and it is not just one or two warm years but a strong trend seen over a decade.

To uncover the effects of warming, the researchers turned to phenology, the study of the timing of familiar signs of spring seen in plants, butterflies, birds, and other species. Shifts in phenology are considered one of the clearest and most rapid signals of biological response to rising temperatures, Hye explained.

Yet most long-term records of phenological events have come from much milder climes. For example, recent comprehensive studies have reported advancements of 2.5 days per decade for European plants and 5.1 days per decade across animals and plants globally.s

Using the most comprehensive data set available for the region, the researchers now document extremely rapid climate-induced advancement of flowering, emergence, and egg-laying in a wide array of High Arctic species. Indeed, they show that the flowering dates in six plant species, median emergence dates of twelve arthropod species, and clutch initiation dates in three species of birds have advanced, in some cases by over 30 days during the last decade. The average advancement
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Contact: Erin Doonan
edoonan@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
18-Jun-2007


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