University Of Tasmania
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Extreme events as ecosystems drivers: ecological consequences of anomalous Southern Hemisphere weather patterns during the 2001/02 austral spring-summer

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 22:27 authored by Bergstrom, DM, Woehler, EJ, Andrew KlekociukAndrew Klekociuk, Pook, MJ, Robert MassomRobert Massom
The frequency and severity of extreme events associated with global change are both forecast to increase with a concomitant increase expected in perturbations and disruptions of fundamental processes at ecosystem, community and population scales, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Extreme events should thus be viewed as ecosystem drivers, rather than as short term deviations from a perceived ‘norm’. To illustrate this, we examined the impacts associated with the extraordinary weather pattern of the austral spring/summer of 2001/2002, and find that patterns of ocean-atmosphere interactions appear linked to a suite of extreme events in Antarctica and more widely across the Southern Hemisphere. In the Antarctic, the extreme events appear related to particular ecological impacts, including the substantial reduction in breeding success of Adélie penguins at sites in the Antarctic Peninsula as well as for Adélie penguin and snow petrel colonies in East Antarctica, and the creation of new benthic habitats associated with the disintegration of the Larsen B Ice Shelf. Other major impacts occurred in marine and terrestrial ecosystems at temperate and tropical latitudes. The suite of impacts demonstrates that ecological consequences of extreme events are manifested at fundamental levels in ecosystem processes and produce long-term, persistent effects relative to the short-term durations of the events. Changes in the rates of primary productivity, species mortality, community structure and inter-specific interactions, and changes in trophodynamics were observed as a consequence of the conditions during the 2001/2002 summer. Lasting potential consequences include reaching or exceeding tipping points, trophic cascades and regime shifts.


Publication title

Advances in Polar Science








School of Natural Sciences


China Science Press

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2018 © Advances in Polar Science

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Effects of climate change on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic environments (excl. social impacts); Understanding climate change not elsewhere classified