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Høye, T.T., Post, E., Meltofte, H., Schmidt, N.M. & Forchhammer, M.C. 2007. Rapid advancement of spring in the High Arctic. Curr. Biol. 17:R449–R451.
Uploaded on Tuesday 21 Feb 2012
Advancement of phenological events in high-arctic Greenland
Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
It is clear from lower latitudes that phenological trends are linked to temperature changes and experimental warming also results in earlier plant phenology. Yet, in Arctic and alpine ecosystems, the melting of the winter snow pack rather than temperature per se determines the onset of biological activity like the timing of flowering in plants and emergence in invertebrates. As such, the phenology of these groups of organisms, or taxa, could be advancing considerably in response to earlier snowmelt. In fact, in a study covering a range of taxa carried out at Zackenberg Research Station in Northeast Greenland, it was found that not only is reproductive phenology showing stronger trends in the Arctic than elsewhere, trends were also stronger the later, on average, that an event (e.g., flowering in plants, emergence in arthropods, and egg-laying in birds) took place during the season. There are clearly limits to such phenological flexibility. In a situation with extreme changes to the physical environment, the timing of reproductive phenology may be more influenced by other cues like day length.