Marine predators have expanded their ranges into the Arctic waters over the last twenty years, driven by climate change and associated increases in productivity. The seas surrounding the Arctic are important fisheries and ecological regions; they are also among the areas most affected by climate change. The effects of warming waters and loss of sea ice on the biodiversity of these waters, and hence their ecology, is still not fully understood.
An international team of researchers led by Dr. Irene D. Alabia at the Arctic Research Center at Hokkaido University has examined Arctic-wide and regional changes in species richness, composition, and potential species associations. Their findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, show that recent changes in biodiversity were driven by pervasive poleward species range expansions.
“We used data on the occurrences of 69 species of apex predators and mesopredators in eight Arctic areas from 2000–2019,” Alabia explains. “We combined this information with climate and productivity data across the same period to map species-specific habitat distributions.”