Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Climate Change and Its effects on three animals of the Arctic

           When people think of climate change the first thing that usually comes to mind is how the arctic is affected. The Arctic is one of the coldest places on earth therefore it is wondered what will happen to the things that live there when it warms up. Animals in these parts have adapted to the cold and use this cold for survival. In the last century the frozen ground of the arctic called the permafrost has warmed four to seven degrees. (Berwyn)This may not seem like a huge deal but when it is causing ice to melt earlier and form later it has detrimental effects on organisms that depend on the ice for survival. This temperature change is hindering a lot of animals and is making it hard for them to survive. (Berwyn) The ice melting alone is enough to kill off several species if it continues to melt as fast as it currently is. Every animal is the arctic is going to be effected in some way by the climate change. So what are some specific animals being effected by the warming temperatures of the arctic?  Polar Bears is one animal that first comes to every one’s mind because they are one of the biggest predators of the arctic. Another is the walrus and arctic birds. These animals all have one thing in common. That it is becoming harder and harder for them to find food due to the warming climate.
According to climate change models the population of arctic birds could be reduced by nearly half. These models include habitat loss and decreased breeding ability. With the warmer temperatures the trees are able to grow future north than they have ever before. (Kirby, Arctic Birds) This means this will replace the tundra conditions that a lot of arctic birds need to effectively breed. Some of the bids affected are geese Calidrid waders, birds of the sandpiper family, and the red-breasted goose which is worse off out of all the birds listed. (Kirby, Arctic Birds) Climate change for the arctic is not all bad but the rate at which it is changing will be impossible for many species to adapt. If the climate increased by just 1.7 degrees by 2070 many species could lose more than half their habitat. If it increases by 5 degrees in that time the red-breasted goose would lose more than 99% of its habitat. In conclusion, due to loss of breeding and feeding grounds all these birds are in serious danger of going extinct if the temperature keeps increasing. (Kirby, Arctic Birds)

Another animal at risk of going extinct is the polar bear. This animal is an extremely fierce predator capable of killing animals as large as the beluga whale. So its hunting skills are not the reason why it’s suffering. Climate change is causing the polar bears hunting ground to literally melt away from under their feet. Ice is their main hunting ground. Because it is melting sooner and forming later their hunting season is significantly shorter and their geographical range is smaller as well. (Gazette) Not only does the ice not stay as long it is also not forming at all in some places it used too. It’s melting away and not returning. A large portion of polar bears like to live on the ice all the time. (Gazette) On the other hand there are some bears  that live on land partially these bears are being studied to see if their land diets are as healthy as their fatty sea ice diets. The results show that the bears will typically only eat the land food when the ice can’t be hunted on. The results show that hunting in land is better than eating nothing. But is still not enough to replace the lipid-rich seals present in the iced-lands. (Gazette)

The edge of ice is much further north than it has been in the past and it looks as if it’s retreating to the north. The Walruses is dependent on thick ice for survival. They need especially thick ice because of their massive weights. (Kirby, Walruses article) Males can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and females about half that. Thin ice cannot support weight that heavy. Another issue the retreating ice is causing for the walruses is now the ice is over deeper water. The walruses dive to the sea floor to feed on mollusks so now they have to dive deeper distances than they did in the past and soon it could get too deep for them. Breeding is directly connected to the ice for these animals because they do all their breeding on the ice. It is already being seen that the calf numbers are dropping.  The ice decreasing takes away the breeding and the hunting grounds for the walrus. (Kirby, Walruses article)

These three animals the polar bear, the arctic birds, and the walrus all are a part of a dynamic ecosystem that is currently shrinking. These animals are part of a food web that could be thrown out of whack terribly if any one of them suffered. The global temperature is expected to continue to rise even more and more as the years pass. (Green Facts) It is highly unlikely that the animals can adapt quickly enough to survive the increasing temperatures. The arctic is going to look very different in the future with what will probably be some different animals unless the climate change rate slows.

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