Navigation Links
Arctic marine mammals on thin ice
Date:4/23/2008

The loss of sea ice due to climate change could spell disaster for polar bears and other Arctic marine mammals. The April Special Issue of Ecological Applications examines such potential effects, puts them in historical context, and describes possible conservation measures to mitigate them. The assessment reflects the latest thinking of experts representing multiple scientific disciplines.

Sea ice is the common habitat feature uniting these unique and diverse Arctic inhabitants. Sea ice serves as a platform for resting and reproduction, influences the distribution of food sources, and provides a refuge from predators. The loss of sea ice poses a particularly severe threat to Arctic species, such as the hooded seal, whose natural history is closely tied to, and depends on, sea ice.

The Arctic undergoes dramatic seasonal transformation. Arctic marine mammals appear to be well adapted to the extremes and variability of this environment, having survived past periods of extended warming and cooling.

However, the rate and scale of current climate change are expected to distinguish current circumstances from those of the past several millennia. These new conditions present unique challenges to the well-being of Arctic marine mammals, says Sue Moore (NOAA/Alaska Fisheries Science Center).

Climate change will pose a variety of threats to marine mammals. For some, such as polar bears, it is likely to reduce the availability of their prey, requiring them to seek alternate food. Authors Bodil Bluhm and Rolf Gradinger (University of Alaska, Fairbanks) note that while some Arctic marine mammal species may be capable of adjusting to changing food availability, others may be handicapped by their very specific food requirements and hunting techniques. Species such as the walrus and polar bear fall under this category, while the beluga whale and bearded seal are among those who are more opportunistic in their eating habits and therefore potentially less vulnerable, at least in this regard.

Using a quantitative index of species sensitivity to climate change, Kristin Laidre (University of Washington) and colleagues found that the most sensitive Arctic marine mammals appear to be the hooded seal, polar bear, and the narwhal, primarily due to their reliance on sea ice and specialized feeding.

Shifts in the prey base of Arctic marine mammals would likely lead to changes in body condition and potentially affect the immune system of marine mammals, according to Kathy Burek (Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services). She and fellow researchers point out that climate change may alter pathogen transmission and exposure to infectious diseases, possibly lowering the health of marine mammals and, in the worst case, their survival. Changing environmental conditions, including more frequent bouts of severe weather and rising air and water temperatures, also could impact the health of Arctic marine mammals.

The effects of climate change will be compounded by a host of secondary factors. The loss of ice will open the Arctic to new levels of shipping, oil and gas exploration and drilling, fishing, hunting, tourism, and coastal development. These, in turn, will add new threats to marine mammal populations, including ship strikes, contaminants, and competition for prey.

Timothy Ragen (US Marine Mammal Commission) and colleagues describe how conservation measures may be able to address the secondary effects of climate change, but that only reductions in greenhouse gas emissions canover the long-termconserve Arctic marine mammals and the Arctic ecosystems on which they depend.


'/>"/>

Contact: Nadine Lymn
nadine@esa.org
202-833-8773
Ecological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Texas researchers and educators head for Antarctica
2. LSU professor looks for life in and under antarctic ice
3. Satellites witness lowest Arctic ice coverage in history
4. Woods Hole Research Center to lead undergraduate initiative in the Siberian Arctic
5. Less Arctic ice means higher risks, experts warn
6. ANDRILLs 2nd Antarctic drilling season exceeds all expectations
7. Massive dinosaur discovered in Antarctica sheds light on life, distribution of sauropodomorphs
8. High degree of resistance to antibiotics in Arctic birds
9. Antarctic ice loss
10. Exploration of lake hidden beneath Antarcticas ice sheet begins
11. Antarctic expedition provides new insights into the role of the Southern Ocean for global climate
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/16/2017)... 2017   Bridge Patient Portal , an ... MD EMR Systems , an electronic medical record ... have established a partnership to build an interface ... GE Centricity™ products, including Centricity Practice Solution (CPS), ... These new integrations will allow healthcare delivery networks ...
(Date:4/17/2017)... 17, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTD ... filing of its 2016 Annual Report on Form 10-K on Thursday ... ... available in the Investor Relations section of the Company,s website at ... website at http://www.sec.gov . 2016 Year Highlights: ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... No two people are believed to ... York University Tandon School of Engineering and Michigan ... partial similarities between prints are common enough that ... and other electronic devices can be more vulnerable ... in the fact that fingerprint-based authentication systems feature ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/28/2017)... , ... June 28, 2017 , ... Supplies of the ... leading experts gathered at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) 2017 ... technetium-99m (Tc-99m), which is used in 30 to 40 million nuclear medicine procedures worldwide ...
(Date:6/27/2017)... ... 27, 2017 , ... The recent vote by the American Medication Association to ... hope to patients and hopefully sheds new light on the way health insurers, governments ... expert and founding partner of Texas Fertility Center . , “This designation ...
(Date:6/27/2017)... ... , ... Biodex Medical Systems, Inc. announces the release of the Mobility Assist, ... lifts patients safely from a seated to a standing position without staff support using ... the latest in a line of Biodex products promoting safe patient handling. , The ...
(Date:6/27/2017)... ... June 27, 2017 , ... Indiana-based Xylogenics announced today the ... fermentation process. The efficiencies created by the newest strain design will have ... ethanol industry wherein individual production plants are planning to invest upwards of $350 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: