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Warwick F. Vincent – 2012

May 28, 2012 @ 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Senate Chamber, N940, Ross Building, York University

Title: Rapid Ecosystem Change Across Canada’s Arctic Frontier

Abstract: The Canadian Arctic contains a spectacular variety of aquatic ecosystem types including vast networks of lakes in glaciated basins, permafrost thaw lakes, large rivers discharging to the Arctic Ocean, ice shelves, lagoons and other coastal ecosystems, and perennially ice-capped, solar heated lakes.  Our analyses of the molecular microbiology of these waters have revealed diverse communities in each of the three domains of microbial life, with implications for biogeography, food web structure and biogeochemical processes including greenhouse gas fluxes.

The Arctic is currently warming at more than twice the global average, and some of these aquatic ecosystems have begun to experience step-like changes in their physical and ecological regimes. Over the last ten years, several types of ice-dependent ecosystems at our study sites in the High Arctic have experienced abrupt changes, resulting in complete habitat loss at some locations. To obtain a longer term perspective, we analysed coastal sediment cores taken behind the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf (Antoniades et al. 2011). The results indicate large variability in past ice conditions, however the synchronicity of its current break-up with the collapse of ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula region is without precedent over the last 8000 years, implying that we have entered a new phase of pole-to-pole deglaciation (Hodgson 2011). Our observations also imply that global climate change has begun to induce abrupt, discontinuous shifts in high latitude ecosystem structure and function, and that Canada’s Arctic frontier is moving into a new dynamic state that we urgently need to better understand.  Brochure - Y-File Article



Updated on August 11th, 2014.