Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010: Indicator #12, Reproductive Phenology in Terrestrial Ecosystems

Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010: Indicator #12, Reproductive Phenology in Terrestrial Ecosystems

The timing of reproduction in plants and animals, also termed ‘reproductive phenology’, is probably the most frequently reported indicator of a species response to climate change and possibly one of the most sensitive. Along with the growing awareness of climate change, shifts in species phenology have been reported from the Arctic and most other biomes globally. Most Arctic species breed during the short summer, and they face the double challenge of avoiding severe weather during spring while ensuring sufficient time for offspring growth and development. Different reproductive strategies explain why, for instance, musk oxen, Ovibos moschatus, give birth long before the spring thaw, while the hatching of eggs of migratory birds like the ruddy turnstone, Arenaria interpres, takes place during the peak of summer. Musk oxen are able to provide their young with milk during late winter even with limited access to forage, while migratory shorebirds need to build up body reserves for egg formation after their arrival on Arctic breeding grounds. Yet, the short Arctic summer poses a constraint on successful breeding in most species, and changes to the duration of the breeding season can be expected to have profound consequences for the production of offspring and survival.


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