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Study: Warming has ‘severely perturbed’ Arctic

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'No matter where you look ... we're seeing signs,' biologist says

WASHINGTON - Arctic warming is affecting plants, birds, animals and insects as ice melts and the growing season changes, scientists report in a new review of the many impacts climate change2.gif is having on the far north."Arctic ecosystems ... have been severely perturbed," the experts wrote in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

As the global climate changes, the Arctic Circle has been warming faster than other regions and scientists have documented a series of affects on wildlife in the region.

For example, migratory caribou in Greenland and elsewhere are declining, the researchers said, since the animals have not been able to adjust their calving season to keep it synchronized with changes in plant growth.As a result, the time when the females need the most food no longer matches the time when the most food is available, and fewer calves survive. In addition, warmer weather can produce more insects and parasites to prey on the caribou.

Another example: Polar bears and ringed seals, which give birth in lairs under the snow, are losing pups when lairs collapse in unusually early spring rains.

On the other hand, wild reindeer on the Norwegian islands of Svalbard appear to have benefited from the earlier seasonal loss of snow cover. These animals don't migrate and the longer growing season and less snow cover means more food for them.

The researchers found that with warmer conditions red foxes are moving north, displacing Arctic foxes from their territories.

Also expanding their territories to the north are the winter moth, which defoliates mountain birch forests, and species of Arctic trees and shrubs.

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