University of Oulu

Vilmi, A., Alahuhta, J., Hjort, J., Kärnä, O., Leinonen, K., Rocha, M., Tolonen, K., Tolonen, K., Heino, J. (2017) Geography of global change and species richness in the North, 25 (2), 184-192. doi:

Geography of global change and species richness in the North

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Author: Vilmi, Annika1,2; Alahuhta, Janne3; Hjort, Jan3;
Organizations: 1Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Environment Centre, Biodiversity, Paavo Havaksen tie 3, 90530 Oulu, Finland
2Ecology Research Unit, University of Oulu, Finland
3Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Canadian Science Publishing, 2017
Publish Date: 2019-06-13


Different components of global change (e.g., climate change, land use, pollution, and introduced species) continue to alter biodiversity worldwide. As northern regions are still relatively undisturbed and will likely face clear increases in temperature in the near-future, we examined the signs of biodiversity change due to anthropogenic stressors using a systematic review of previous studies. Our aim was to map where, in which way, and owing to which stressor biodiversity in northern regions has changed. We made a systematic literature search covering the years between 2000 and 2015 to obtain a comprehensive selection of recent research. As species richness was clearly the most commonly used indicator of biodiversity, we only concentrated on this aspect of biodiversity. We compared different biological groups, regions, and ecosystems. In the majority of the cases, anthropogenic stressors had decreased species richness, or had no effects on it, while increasing or multiple effects of stressors on species richness were less common. Freshwater ecosystems were most sensitive to anthropogenic stressors, as species richness often decreased owing to these stressors. The effects of land use on richness were covered relatively widely in the selected set of articles, but the effects of other components of global change on species richness require further attention. Despite the fact that pollution was not as commonly studied stressor as land use, it was the most harmful stressor type affecting species richness. Geographically, most studies were located in boreal Canada or Fennoscandia, while no studies were executed in vast circumpolar areas where the temperature rise has been greatest and the projected climate change is likely to be fast. Overall, we could find an alarmingly small set of studies that described the effects of actual anthropogenic stressors in real-life circumstances in northern high latitudes.

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Series: Environmental reviews
ISSN: 1181-8700
ISSN-E: 1208-6053
ISSN-L: 1181-8700
Volume: 25
Issue: 2
Pages: 184 - 192
DOI: 10.1139/er-2016-0085
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1172 Environmental sciences
1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The authors thank Dr. Satu Maaria Karjalainen for constructive discussions. The authors also acknowledge the Academy of Finland, Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Ministry of Education of Brazil and “Science Without Borders”, and Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation for financial support. The authors have no conflicts of interests to declare.
Copyright information: © 2016 The Authors. The final publication is available at