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      The effect of extreme spring weather on body condition and stress physiology in Lapland longspurs and white-crowned sparrows breeding in the Arctic

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          • The spring of 2013 was extreme with record low temperatures and snow cover.
          • Arrival of migrant birds in Arctic was significantly delayed in 2013 compared to 3 other years.
          • Body condition was negatively affected in white-crowned sparrows and Lapland longspurs.
          • Stress physiology was increased in Lapland longspurs but not white-crowned sparrows.
          • Extreme events have the capacity to affect phenology, body condition and stress physiology.


          Climate change is causing rapid shifts in temperature while also increasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme weather. In the northern hemisphere, the spring of 2013 was characterized as extreme due to record high snow cover and low temperatures. Studies that describe the effects of extreme weather on phenology across taxa are limited while morphological and physiological responses remain poorly understood. Stress physiology, as measured through baseline and stress-induced concentrations of cortisol or corticosterone, has often been studied to understand how organisms respond to environmental stressors. We compared body condition and stress physiology of two long-distance migrants breeding in low arctic Alaska – the white-crowned sparrow ( Zonotrichia leucophrys) and Lapland longspur ( Calcarius lapponicus) – in 2013, an extreme weather year, with three more typical years (2011, 2012, and 2014). The extended snow cover in spring 2013 caused measureable changes in phenology, body condition and physiology. Arrival timing for both species was delayed 4–5 days compared to the other three years. Lapland longspurs had reduced fat stores, pectoralis muscle profiles, body mass, and hematocrit levels, while stress-induced concentrations of corticosterone were increased. Similarly, white-crowned sparrows had reduced pectoralis muscle profiles and hematocrit levels, but in contrast to Lapland longspurs, had elevated fat stores and no difference in mass or stress physiology relative to other study years. An understanding of physiological mechanisms that regulate coping strategies is of critical importance for predicting how species will respond to the occurrence of extreme events in the future due to global climate change.

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          Most cited references 65

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          The central role of diminishing sea ice in recent Arctic temperature amplification.

          The rise in Arctic near-surface air temperatures has been almost twice as large as the global average in recent decades-a feature known as 'Arctic amplification'. Increased concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases have driven Arctic and global average warming; however, the underlying causes of Arctic amplification remain uncertain. The roles of reductions in snow and sea ice cover and changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation, cloud cover and water vapour are still matters of debate. A better understanding of the processes responsible for the recent amplified warming is essential for assessing the likelihood, and impacts, of future rapid Arctic warming and sea ice loss. Here we show that the Arctic warming is strongest at the surface during most of the year and is primarily consistent with reductions in sea ice cover. Changes in cloud cover, in contrast, have not contributed strongly to recent warming. Increases in atmospheric water vapour content, partly in response to reduced sea ice cover, may have enhanced warming in the lower part of the atmosphere during summer and early autumn. We conclude that diminishing sea ice has had a leading role in recent Arctic temperature amplification. The findings reinforce suggestions that strong positive ice-temperature feedbacks have emerged in the Arctic, increasing the chances of further rapid warming and sea ice loss, and will probably affect polar ecosystems, ice-sheet mass balance and human activities in the Arctic.
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            Ecological dynamics across the Arctic associated with recent climate change.

            At the close of the Fourth International Polar Year, we take stock of the ecological consequences of recent climate change in the Arctic, focusing on effects at population, community, and ecosystem scales. Despite the buffering effect of landscape heterogeneity, Arctic ecosystems and the trophic relationships that structure them have been severely perturbed. These rapid changes may be a bellwether of changes to come at lower latitudes and have the potential to affect ecosystem services related to natural resources, food production, climate regulation, and cultural integrity. We highlight areas of ecological research that deserve priority as the Arctic continues to warm.
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              Influences of species, latitudes and methodologies on estimates of phenological response to global warming


                Author and article information

                Gen Comp Endocrinol
                Gen. Comp. Endocrinol
                General and Comparative Endocrinology
                Academic Press
                01 October 2016
                01 October 2016
                : 237
                : 10-18
                [a ]Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, University of California Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
                [b ]Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA
                [c ]The Roslin Institute, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG, Scotland, UK
                [d ]John H. Prescott Marine Laboratory, Research Department, New England Aquarium, Boston, MA 02110, USA
                [e ]Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University, Towson, MD 21252, USA
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. jskrause@
                © 2016 The Authors

                This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

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