IAB Research Project Description

IPY: Impacts of High-Latitude Climate Change on Ecosystems Services and Society

F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III, professor of ecology at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, surveys a recently burned boreal forest area in Interior Alaska. Credit: F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III/IAB/Professor of Ecology

Any and all uses of these images must include photographer credit.

The Arctic System is undergoing unprecedented changes, many of which result from global warming trends that become amplified at high latitudes. These changes include warmer temperatures, northward movement of the summer sea ice margin, retreating glaciers, thawing of permafrost, earlier snow-melt, drying of uplands and boreal wetlands, increased area extent of wildfires, subsidence of the ground surface in some boreal lowlands and changes in lake area.

These and other physical changes have had major ecological consequences, including changes in the distribution and behavior of ice-dependent marine mammals, increased shrubbiness in Arctic tundra, changes in the productivity and successional patterns in the boreal forest, changes in terrestrial animal populations and changes in outbreaks of pests and diseases.

Arctic environmental and ecological changes have had profound social impacts on indigenous and non-indigenous people because of both the large magnitude of changes and the generally strong dependence on renewable resources that characterizes northern societies.

Ecosystem services, which are the benefits that society derives from ecosystems, are the critical link between environmental and ecological changes and their impacts on society. Although we know in a general sense that northern ecosystem services are changing, the overall patterns, causes, interactions and consequences of these changes are too poorly known (or are considered only in isolation from other changes) to provide policy makers and the public with a firm foundation for policy formulation and change.

Project goals are to (1) document the current status and trends in ecosystem services in the Arctic and boreal forest, (2) project future trends in these services; and (3) assess the societal consequences of altered ecosystem services.

Project Funding

National Science Foundation
31 Oct 2007 – 30 Sep 2010
IAB Proposal #07-067
UAF Grant #G4397
IAB Project #114

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Communications/Web Manager
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907.474.7412