Ecosystem Response, Resistance, Resilience, and Recovery in Arctic Landscapes: Introduction

  • J. F. Reynolds
  • J. D. Tenhunen
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 120)


The Arctic, which includes most of Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, Greenland, northern Scandinavia, Siberia, and the Arctic Ocean, is a fragile component of the global earth system. Although arctic systems have been relatively stable for thousands of years, they are easily altered by anthropogenic disturbance (Ives 1970; NAS 1982; Billings and Peterson 1992). This susceptibility is due to a number of factors, including a short growing season, low temperatures, low primary productivity, the presence of permafrost, and the extreme sensitivity of the vegetative and organic surface layers to any disruption of their physical integrity and thermal regime. The latter leads to themokarst — a localized thawing of ground ice — and severe erosion (Billings 1973). In the Arctic, even subtle variations in air temperature, radiation, atmospheric and oceanic chemistry, and ocean heat transport are likely to have large effects on sea ice, snow, glaciers, permafrost, and tundra ecosystems; in turn, this may alter crucial air/ice/ocean/land feedbacks controlling regional and global climate, ocean circulation patterns, and atmospheric concentrations of trace gases (OIES 1988; Weller 1995). Motivated largely by predictions that global warming is expected to be most extreme in the polar regions of the globe (Mitchell et al. 1990; Maxwell 1992), a tremendous surge in international research on arctic systems science has occurred in recent years (e.g., OIES 1988; IGBP 1990; ARCUS 1991; M. D. Walker et al. 1994a; Chap. 2, this Vol.).


Ecosystem Response Landscape Unit Arctic Ecosystem Tundra Ecosystem Eriophorum Vaginatum 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. F. Reynolds
  • J. D. Tenhunen

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