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Ocean Acidification

Over the past five years, ocean acidification (OA) has emerged as one of the most prominent issues in marine research. This is especially true given the newfound public understanding of the potential biological threat to marine calcifiers (e.g. clams, pteropods) and associated fisheries, and the associated human impacts for small communities that directly or indirectly rely on them (e.g., Mathis et al., 2015a; Frisch et al., 2015). Cooler water temperatures and unique physical processes (i.e. formation and melting of sea ice) make the waters of the Arctic Ocean disproportionately sensitive to OA when compared to the rest of the global ocean. Even small amounts of human-derived carbon dioxide (CO2) can cause significant chemical changes that other areas do not experience, and these could pose an existential threat to some biological organisms.

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Terrestrial Carbon Cycle

The Arctic continues to warm at a rate that is currently twice as fast as the global average. Warming is causing normally frozen ground (permafrost) to thaw, exposing significant quantities of organic soil carbon to decomposition by soil microbes (Romanovsky et al. 2010, Romanovsky et al. 2012). This permafrost carbon is the remnants of plants, animals, and microbes accumulated in frozen soil over hundreds to thousands of years (Schuur et al. 2008). The northern permafrost zone holds twice as much carbon as currently in the atmosphere (Schuur et al. 2015, Hugelius et al. 2014, Tarnocai et al. 2009, Zimov et al. 2006). Release of just a fraction of this frozen carbon pool, as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere would dramatically increase the rate of future global climate warming (Schuur et al. 2013).

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Shrews and Their Parasites: Small Species Indicate Big Changes

When natural environments change, species may shift their distributions, adapt to novel conditions, or die out. Consequently, accelerating climate change is already recognized as leading to considerable range expansion and contraction, evolutionary changes, and extinction for hosts, parasites, and diseases through the Arctic (e.g., Kutz et al., 2013; Meltofte et al., 2013). Ultimately, these perturbations have consequences for wildlife and humans at high latitudes (e.g., Dudley et al., 2015). Complex host-parasite systems are critical proxies for understanding change in northern regions due to species interactions that determine the distribution of parasites and disease over space and time (e.g., Hoberg et al., 2012, 2013). Life histories for helminth parasites (tapeworms, flukes, roundworms) often involve circulation among mammalian hosts (where adult parasites reside) and other vertebrate and invertebrate species (where larval or developing parasites reside). Other parasites (viruses, bacteria, protozoans) circulate through vectors such as blood feeding arthropods or through direct transmission. These complex life cycles are closely tied to environmental conditions, define linkages across communities, and scale from individuals to ecosystems.

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