Arctic spring’s ‘rapid advance’

Spring in the Arctic is arriving “weeks earlier” than a decade ago, a team of Danish researchers have reported.

Ice in north-east Greenland is melting an average of 14.6 days earlier than in the mid-1990s, bringing forward the date plants flower and birds lay eggs.

The team warned that the observed changes could disrupt the region’s ecosystems and food chain, affecting the long-term survival of some species.

The findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.

The scientists assessed how a range of species’ behaviour was affected by the changing climate in Zackenberg, north-east Greenland, between 1996 and 2005.

Observation of 21 species – six plants, 12 arthropods and three birds – revealed that the organisms had brought forward their flowering, emergence or egg-laying in line with the earlier ice melt.

“We were particularly surprised to see the trends were so strong when considering that the entire summer is very short in the High Arctic – just three or four months from snowmelt to freeze-up,” said co-author Toke Hoye, from the University of Aarhus.

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