Effects of Arctic Sea Ice Loss Not Limited to Marine Life

Written by on October 4, 2013 in Marine Life
Walrus females resting on ice with calves.

Walrus females resting on ice with calves. Photo credit: USFWSAlaska via photopin cc.

Last Friday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists photographed an estimated 10,000 walrus packed onto the beach of a barrier island near Point Lay on Alaska’s northwest coast.

Between 2,000 and 4,000 walrus were photographed in the area on September 12, and that number soared to over 10,000 by September 27.

Pacific walrus females typically give birth on sea ice and use the ice as a diving platform to forage. As sea ice cover declines, gatherings of walrus on shore are becoming more common. They were first spotted on the U.S. side of the Chukchi Sea in 2007 and returned again in 2009 and 2011 in groups of up to 30,000.

Check out this video of the 2011 walrus haul-out:

But the loss of sea ice isn’t only having an effect on marine life.

Caribou mother and calf.

Caribou mother and calf. Photo credit: Travis S. via photopin cc.

A new study reveals that melting Arctic sea ice may be leading to fewer caribou calf births and higher calf mortality in Greenland.

The research from Penn State University has linked the sea ice melt with changes in the timing of plant growth on land, which is associated with fewer caribou calf births. Eric Post, a biology professor at Penn State, has been studying the relationship between calving times and the start of the plant-growing season for 20 years. He has noticed that the plants are starting to grow earlier, but calves are being born at the same time. Because of this timing mismatch, the plants are past their “peak nutritional value” by the time the migrating caribou reach them.

To learn more about the effects of sea ice loss, check out some of these links:

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Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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