Global Warming Benefits Arctic Species, Peer-Reviewed Study Shows

Published January 18, 2013

Global warming will benefit most Arctic species, a team of scientists report in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One. The scientists found global warming will allow most Arctic species to expand their ranges and no species are expected to go extinct. The study delivers a sharp blow to global warming activists who have been arguing Arctic warming justifies costly government-imposed economic restrictions.

Initial Assumptions of Harm

Ecological and environmental scientists at Sweden’s Umea University began their study assuming Arctic and subarctic species would be particularly susceptible to current and future global warming. 

“The area of tundra is expected to decrease and temperate climates will extend further north, affecting species inhabiting northern environments. Consequently, species at high latitudes should be especially susceptible to climate change, likely experiencing significant range contractions,” the scientists stated at the beginning of their study.

Global warming activists have raised particular concern about species in Arctic and subarctic Europe.

“It is supposed that the large expected climate change at high northern latitudes therefore makes species in (sub)arctic regions particularly susceptible, especially the European part of the (Sub)arctics, since this region is the most geographically complex with the most infrastructure and great cultural, social, and political heterogeneity,” the scientists noted.

Range Expansions Benefit Species

After modeling the effects of global warming in European high latitudes, however, the scientists reported the alarmists are entirely wrong about the impact of warming on Arctic and subarctic species. In reality, global warming is likely to benefit most Arctic and subarctic species.

“Contrary to these expectations, our modeling of species distributions suggests that predicted climate change up to 2080 will favor most mammals presently inhabiting (sub)arctic Europe,” the scientists reported.

According to the scientists, “most species will benefit from climate change, except for a few cold-climate specialists.” Of the relatively few Arctic and subarctic species that will not benefit from global warming, most are alpine species. 

No Extinctions

Importantly, no species will go extinct due to warming, the scientists report.

“Our results indicate that, irrespective of the scenario, most species (43 out of 61) will expand and shift their ranges, mostly in a north-easterly direction, in response to expected climate change if we assume that species are able to colonize all areas that become climatically suitable,” the scientists observed.

Biodiversity Will Improve

Most species will dramatically expand their ranges as the climate warms, the scientists discovered. That means global warming will increase biodiversity.

“The average range expansion [is] predicted to be 12068% under the A2 scenario and 8355% under the B2 scenario,” the scientists reported. “We further predict that, irrespective of the scenario, the climate in (sub)arctic Europe will become suitable to ten more mammalian species.…Thus, mammalian species richness in (sub)arctic Europe is likely to increase substantially when full dispersal ability is assumed.”

Even if human alterations to the landscape preclude species from expanding their ranges to some newly suitable lands, no animals will go extinct.

“When we assumed that species will not be able to disperse beyond areas that are currently suitable for them, we found that the vast majority of species will likely lose part of their geographic range, but none is predicted to go extinct,” the scientists wrote.

Mammals to Benefit

The scientists reported Arctic mammals will be among the greatest beneficiaries of Arctic warming.

“The reason for the relative stability of mammalian presence might be that arctic regions have experienced large climatic shifts in the past, filtering out sensitive and range-restricted taxa,” the scientists reported. “We also provide evidence that for most (sub)arctic mammals it is not climate change per se that will threaten them, but possible constraints on their dispersal ability and changes in community composition.”

They concluded, “In contrast to the general belief that species inhabiting the (sub)arctics will face increased levels of stress due to climate change, our work suggests that the climate in sub(arctic) Europe will ameliorate the future conditions for most of its mammalian species. Warmer and wetter conditions favor more species.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

Internet Info:

“Future Climate Change Will Favor Non-Specialist Mammals in the (Sub)Arctics,” PLOS One: