Arctic sea ice has declined by about 86,000 square kilometers per year and is at its lowest point in 1,500 years. Researchers from Penn State set out to study the potential ‘domino effect’ this change is having on marine and terrestrial life in the Arctic. Disruptions in the food chain are already occurring as melting ice affects the blooming times of sea-ice algae and sub-ice plankton, which account for 57 percent of the total annual biological production in the Arctic Ocean. As ice continues to melt, previously remote parts of the Arctic are becoming more accessible to humans. Increased shipping traffic will likely pollute the environment which will affect both marine and terrestrial animals.
An international team of disease ecologists is studying the way climate change is affecting the spread of infectious diseases. They note that tropical marine environments, like coral reefs, are one example of an ecosystem where diseases are already impacting whole communities. Warmer water temperatures have stressed corals and facilitated infections. This is particularly dangerous because the corals form the basis of the entire ecosystem and every species that depends on them are also at risk.
If you’ve ever seen a starfish feeding, you know how weird it is. A starfish extends its stomach out of its mouth and over the prey that it intends on consuming. The prey is partially digested to a soup-like consistency before the starfish draws it back into its body. Researchers have recently discovered the signal that triggers the stomach to contract and retract back into the starfish. The findings could help scientists control starfish predation, which has an economic impact on commercially important shellfish like mussels and clams.
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.