Publication Details

Robinson, S. A. & Erickson, D. J. (2015). Not just about sunburn – the ozone hole's profound effect on climate has significant implications for Southern Hemisphere ecosystems. Global Change Biology, 21 (2), 515-527.


Climate scientists have concluded that stratospheric ozone depletion has been a major driver of Southern Hemisphere climate processes since about 1980. The implications of these observed and modelled changes in climate are likely to be far more pervasive for both terrestrial and marine ecosystems than the increase in ultraviolet-B radiation due to ozone depletion; however, they have been largely overlooked in the biological literature. Here, we synthesize the current understanding of how ozone depletion has impacted Southern Hemisphere climate and highlight the relatively few documented impacts on terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Reviewing the climate literature, we present examples of how ozone depletion changes atmospheric and oceanic circulation, with an emphasis on how these alterations in the physical climate system affect Southern Hemisphere weather, especially over the summer season (December-February). These potentially include increased incidence of extreme events, resulting in costly floods, drought, wildfires and serious environmental damage. The ecosystem impacts documented so far include changes to growth rates of South American and New Zealand trees, decreased growth of Antarctic mosses and changing biodiversity in Antarctic lakes. The objective of this synthesis was to stimulate the ecological community to look beyond ultraviolet-B radiation when considering the impacts of ozone depletion. Such widespread changes in Southern Hemisphere climate are likely to have had as much or more impact on natural ecosystems and food production over the past few decades, than the increased ultraviolet radiation due to ozone depletion.

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