Expected Climate Change in the High Arctic—Good or Bad for Arctic Charr?
AuthorSvenning, Martin; Bjørvik, Eigil T.; Godiksen, Jane Aanestad; Hammar, Johan; Kohler, Jack; Borgstrøm, Reidar; Yoccoz, Nigel Gilles
Lakes in the High Arctic are characterized by their low water temperature, long-term ice cover, low levels of nutrients, and low biodiversity. These conditions mean that minor climatic changes may be of great importance to Arctic freshwater organisms, including fish, by influencing vital life history parameters such as individual growth rates. In this study, Arctic charr sampled from two Svalbard lakes (78–79◦ N) over the period 1960–2008 provided back-calculated length-at age information extending over six decades, covering both warm and cold spells. The estimated annual growth in young-of-the-year (YOY) Arctic charr correlated positively with an increasing air temperature in summer. This increase is likely due to the higher water temperature during the ice-free period, and also to some extent, due to the winter air temperature; this is probably due to thinner ice being formed in mild winters and the subsequent earlier ice break-up. However, years with higher snow accumulation correlated with slower growth rates, which may be due to delayed ice break-up and thus a shorter summer growing season. More than 30% of the growth in YOY charr could be explained specifically by air temperature and snow accumulation in the two Arctic charr populations. This indicated that juvenile Svalbard Arctic charr may experience increased growth rates in a future warmer climate, although future increases in precipitation may contradict the positive effects of higher temperatures to some extent. In the longer term, a warmer climate may lead to the complete loss of many glaciers in western Svalbard; therefore, rivers may dry out, thus hindering migration between salt water and fresh water for migratory fish. In the worst-case scenario, the highly valuable and attractive anadromous Arctic charr populations could eventually disappear from the Svalbard lake systems. High Arctic; Svalbard lake systems; climate impact; Arctic charr; growth rate; anadromy
CitationSvenning M, Bjørvik E, Godiksen J, Hammar J, Kohler J, Borgstrøm R, Yoccoz NG. Expected Climate Change in the High Arctic—Good or Bad for Arctic Charr? . Fishes. 2023;9
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