The individual of a species is the basic unit which responds to climate and UV-B changes, and it responds over a wide range of time scales. The diversity of animal, plant and microbial species appears to be low in the Arctic, and decreases from the boreal forests to the polar deserts of the extreme North but primitive species are particularly abundant. This latitudinal decline is associated with an increase in super-dominant species that occupy a wide range of habitats. Climate warming is expected to reduce the abundance and restrict the ranges of such species and to affect species at their northern range boundaries more than in the South: some Arctic animal and plant specialists could face extinction. Species most likely to expand into tundra are boreal species that currently exist as outlier populations in the Arctic. Many plant species have characteristics that allow them to survive short snow-free growing seasons, low solar angles, permafrost and low soil temperatures, low nutrient availability and physical disturbance. Many of these characteristics are likely to limit species. responses to climate warming, but mainly because of poor competitive ability compared with potential immigrant species. Terrestrial Arctic animals possess many adaptations that enable them to persist under a wide range of temperatures in the Arctic. Many escape unfavorable weather and resource shortage by winter dormancy or by migration. The biotic environment of Arctic animal species is relatively simple with few enemies, competitors, diseases, parasites and available food resources. Terrestrial Arctic animals are likely to be most vulnerable to warmer and drier summers, climatic changes that interfere with migration routes and staging areas, altered snow conditions and freeze-thaw cycles in winter, climate-induced disruption of the seasonal timing of reproduction and development, and influx of new competitors, predators, parasites and diseases. Arctic microorganisms are also well adapted to the Arctic's climate: some can metabolize at temperatures down to −39°C. Cyanobacteria and algae have a wide range of adaptive strategies that allow them to avoid, or at least minimize UV injury. Microorganisms can tolerate most environmental conditions and they have short generation times which can facilitate rapid adaptation to new environments. In contrast, Arctic plant and animal species are very likely to change their distributions rather than evolve significantly in response to warming.
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Vol. 33 • No. 7