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Ecological resilience of Arctic marine food webs to climate change


How real-world marine food webs absorb change, recover and adapt (that is, ecological resilience) to climate change remains problematic. Here we apply a novel approach to show how the complex changes in resilience of food webs can be understood with a small core set of self-organizing configurations that represent different simultaneously nested and multiple-species interactions. We identified a recent emergent pattern of an improving but possibly short-lived resilience of a highly observed Arctic marine food web (2004–2016), considered a harbinger of future Arctic change. The changes can be explained by continuing subsidiary inputs of Atlantic species that repair (self-organize) interactions within some configurations. Despite significant environmental perturbation, we found that the core ecological processes are maintained. We conclude that Arctic marine food webs can absorb and begin to adapt to ongoing climate change.

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Fig. 1: Conceptual framework of ecological resilience.
Fig. 2: Core configurations of each observed food web.
Fig. 3: System-wide ecological resilience.
Fig. 4: Local resilience.

Data availability

The data used during the study are available at the Norwegian Polar Data Centre or are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

The software code for the ERGM models is available from and


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The authors acknowledge the support of the Research Council of Norway (Ice-algal and under-ice phytoplankton bloom dynamics in a changing Arctic icescape (Boom or Bust), project no. 244646), FRAM-High North Research Centre for Climate and Environment Flagship program Ocean acidification and ecosystem effects in Northern Waters, the Norwegian Metacentre for Computational Science (NOTUR) and the Norwegian Polar Institute’s Centre for Ice, Climate and Ecosystems (ICE).

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Authors and Affiliations



G.P.G. conceived the idea, methods and wrote the paper. All the co-authors contributed to the final version. G.P.G., H.H., G.W.G. and M.V. interpreted the results. M.V., K.K. and A.W. prepared the data.

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Correspondence to Gary P. Griffith.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Scott Condie, Johanna Yletyinen and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Griffith, G.P., Hop, H., Vihtakari, M. et al. Ecological resilience of Arctic marine food webs to climate change. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 868–872 (2019).

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