Temperature increases but day length does not: an additional problem caused by climate change

Keskiviikko 18.9.2019 klo 15:59 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In temperate and arctic environments most organisms use the predictable day length changes as cues to respond appropriately to oncoming temperature changes (coming of winter or spring; availability of food; time to reproduce; change of fur colour). The day length-temperature interrelationship has remained constant so long that many evolutionary adaptations have taken place. Hares and squirrels change fur colour, hedgehogs start to hibernate, virtually all temperate and arctic mammals and birds reproduce, when food is plentiful, and coastal Arctic fish produce mRNA from gene encoding antifreeze protein in expectation that the protein is needed.

The day length-temperature relationship is unique for geographIMG_0529.JPGically distinct populations. For this reason, even if the temperature tolerance of a southern population of a species would be right for migration to north, the day length temperature mismatch would, for example, make the animal to reproduce, when the food availability is not optimal. Similarly, animals from different latitude change their fur colour at different times. Because of this, even if climate change resulted in temperatures that would be suitable for a southern population of a species, its day length requirements would be inappropriate.

With climate change, the day length-temperature mismatch becomes a serious problem. It is aggravated by the fact that plants and insects with short generation time will be able to respond to temperature increase much more rapidly than vertebrates, which have evolved seasonality. Consequently, food availability during breeding may not be optimal, leading to reduced reproductive success. This kind of indirect effect of climate change on animals is seldom mentioned, but can be even greater that temperature effects themselves alone. We pointed out the problem in Prokkola and Nikinmaa (2018) Circadian rhythms and environmental disturbances – underexplored interactions. J. Exp. Biol. 221, jeb179267; it has recently been reviewed by Walker et al. (2019) Global climate change and invariable photoperiods: A mismatch that jeopardizes animal fitness. Ecology and Evolution 9:10044–10054. Owing to their long generation time, vertebrates can hardly adapt (i.e. accumulate required genetic changes) to the changing day length-temperature relationship. However, tolerance is possible if the plasticity is large: this requires either large genetic variability within population or large phenotypic plasticity (=individual variation) of a genotype.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: biological rhythms, seasonality, arctic, light cycle

Gulf Stream may be slowing - should we be worried?

Sunnuntai 15.4.2018 klo 17:10 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The weather in Europe has been very peculiar in recent years. Heat waves, long cold spells, storms and extremely heavy rain have been common - it has become more a regularity than an exception to have strange weather. While the reason for this cannot be given for certain, based on recent articles in Nature (D. J. R. Thornalley et al. Nature 556, 227–230; 2018 and L. Caesar et al. Nature 556, 191–196; 2018), it is tempting to speculate that the sequence of events may be the following. 

1. Increasing temperature causes ice to melt. (Ice is always salt-free)

2. The water from melting ice causes the arctic seawater to have decreased salinity.

3. Decreased salinity slows down the Atlantic circulation. Also the locations of circulation are affected.

4. The climate has been relatively stable for more than a thousand years, because the Atlantic circulation has been stable.

5. Because the changes in Atlantic circulation are unprecedent, the associated weather phenomena cannot be predicted.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, arctic ice, temperature

Climate Bandits

Maanantai 3.4.2017 klo 13:18 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In these blogs I have earlier been critical of president Trump's actions. However, recent news indicate that he has a brother in Putin. Putin is also of the opinion that man is not responsible of climate change, and said that increased temperature is an opportunity, not a threat to the arctic environment.

It is a pity that the leaders of two major countries live so much in the past. Fifty years ago the situation was not as bad as now, but Putin and Trump cannot see to the future problems, they only see that doing things as in the past would be the way to go forward.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, sustainability, arctic environment

Soon Santa Claus cannot use reindeer sleigh even in North Pole

Torstai 22.12.2016 klo 16:00 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Although Trump's men do not believe that climate change is happening, it is quite worrying that the temperature in North Pole is presently 30-40 C higher than normally this time of year. It is close to the melting point. Soon Santa cannot drive reindeer sleigh even there.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, arctic temperature