Climate change threatens Arctic animals

April 24th, 2008 - 2:15 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 24 (IANS) Climate change, which is eroding Arctic shelves, is likely to spell disaster for polar bears and other marine mammals. The loss of Arctic ice, which serves as a platform for resting and reproduction and provides a refuge from predators, would be particularly severe for species like the hooded seal.

The April special issue of Ecological Applications examines such potential effects and describes possible conservation measures to mitigate them.

The assessment reflects the latest thinking of experts representing multiple scientific disciplines.

Although Arctic marine mammals have survived past periods of extended warming and cooling, the rate and scale of current climate change are expected to dramatically different, said Sue Moore of Alaska Fisheries Science Centre.

Climate change will reduce the availability of prey for polar bears, prompting them to seek alternate food. Species like 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.

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.

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