Climate change: effects on polar ecosystems

Ecosystems are adapted to the climate in a specific region, and changes in that climate will affect ecosystems in various ways. Each arctic ecosystem will probably react differently to such changes. Certain climate-related alterations will have significant impact overall: changes in seasonal phases of the life cycle, changes in species distribution, perturbations in the food web, increased occurrence of parasites and diseases, and greater risk of extinction.

noneThe total volume of sea ice in the Arctic has declined significantly. This has direct consequences for polar bears and other species. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

The effect of climate change on polar ecosystems may include shifts in species’ range, population structure, occurrence, phenology, behaviour, growth and health status. However, it is difficult to identify direct connections between changes in ecosystems and in climate. To project future effects of climate change in polar ecosystems, it is crucial to gain better insight into cause and effect relationships between physical processes in the environment and the responses of animals, plants and their habitats.


The Norwegian Polar Institute carries out research on species that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, especially those that depend on ice for their survival.

More about our research on ecosystems

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