Climate change drives expansion of Antarctic ice-free habitat

Jasmine R. Lee, Ben Raymond, Thomas J. Bracegirdle, Iadine Chadès, Richard A. Fuller, Justine D. Shaw, Aleks Terauds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Antarctic terrestrial biodiversity occurs almost exclusively in ice-free areas that cover less than 1% of the continent. Climate change will alter the extent and configuration of ice-free areas, yet the distribution and severity of these effects remain unclear. Here we quantify the impact of twenty-first century climate change on ice-free areas under two Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate forcing scenarios using temperature-index melt modelling. Under the strongest forcing scenario, ice-free areas could expand by over 17,000 km 2 by the end of the century, close to a 25% increase. Most of this expansion will occur in the Antarctic Peninsula, where a threefold increase in ice-free area could drastically change the availability and connectivity of biodiversity habitat. Isolated ice-free areas will coalesce, and while the effects on biodiversity are uncertain, we hypothesize that they could eventually lead to increasing regional-scale biotic homogenization, the extinction of less-competitive species and the spread of invasive species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalNature
Volume547
Issue number7661
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

Cite this

Lee, J. R., Raymond, B., Bracegirdle, T. J., Chadès, I., Fuller, R. A., Shaw, J. D., & Terauds, A. (2017). Climate change drives expansion of Antarctic ice-free habitat. Nature, 547(7661), 49-54. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature22996