From Iceland — Ask A Scientist: How Does The Midnight Sun Affect The Wildlife Of Iceland?

Ask A Scientist: How Does The Midnight Sun Affect The Wildlife Of Iceland?

Ask A Scientist: How Does The Midnight Sun Affect The Wildlife Of Iceland?

Published July 2, 2021

Brittnee Kiner

Travelers tend to revel in the majestic midnight sun of Icelandic summer, but for some it’s not so magical. When the skies aren’t smothered by rain clouds, the incessant sunlight penetrates the blinds of our homes and campervans into the late hours of the night. However, humans aren’t the only ones dealing with the relentless rays as the Earth’s axis tilts us closer to the sun. We asked biologist Borgný Katrínardóttir from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History how Iceland’s wildlife is affected by the midnight sun.

“Studies have shown that many animals take advantage of the continuous daylight hours during the short breeding season at high latitudes, the extent of which can vary between species as well as sex and breeding stage. The bright summer nights can extend the available feeding time as well as time dedicated to attracting mates, both of which can lead to increased reproductive success. In subarctic Iceland, an example of this would be the singing and display flights of male birds of various species of waders and passerines that start in the early hours and can be heard late into the evening during spring and early summer; some species might display continuous activity during this period while for others the circadian rhythm remains, with a short resting period during the ‘night.’ The latter may apply to species that rely on invertebrates, which often are less accessible during nighttime. Higher nest attendance at night can also be observed in birds as unattended eggs cool off faster during the night.”

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