Projected changes in wildlife habitats in Arctic natural areas of northwest Alaska

Climatic Change
By: , and 



We project the effects of transitional changes among 60 vegetation and other land cover types (“ecotypes”) in northwest Alaska over the 21st century on habitats of 162 bird and 39 mammal species known or expected to occur regularly in the region. This analysis, encompassing a broad suite of arctic and boreal wildlife species, entailed building wildlife-habitat matrices denoting levels of use of each ecotype by each species, and projecting habitat changes under historic and expected accelerated future rates of change from increasing mean annual air temperature based on the average of 5 global climate models under the A1B emissions scenario, and from potential influence of a set of 23 biophysical drivers. Under historic rates of change, we project that 52 % of the 201 species will experience an increase in medium- and high-use habitats, 3 % no change, and 45 % a decrease, and that a greater proportion of mammal species (62 %) will experience habitat declines than will bird species (50 %). Outcomes become more dire (more species showing habitat loss) under projections made from effects of biophysical drivers and especially from increasing temperature, although species generally associated with increasing shrub and tree ecotypes will likely increase in distribution. Changes in wildlife habitats likely will also affect trophic cascades, ecosystem function, and ecosystem services; of particular significance are the projected declines in habitats of most small mammals that form the prey base for mesocarnivores and raptors, and habitat declines in 25 of the 50 bird and mammal species used for subsistence hunting and trapping.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Projected changes in wildlife habitats in Arctic natural areas of northwest Alaska
Series title Climatic Change
DOI 10.1007/s10584-015-1354-x
Volume 130
Issue 2
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer Netherlands
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB
Description 10 p.
First page 145
Last page 154
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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