September 24th, 2011 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in Uncategorized
A recent article on New Scientist highlights how global changes in temperature are affecting life beneath the ocean.
The article notes how the opening of the Northwest Passage, long rendered nearly impassible by dense blocks of ice, has made it possible for animals — such as bowhead whales — to move across the the continent. This may be one of the rare bits of good news to come about in the wake of global climate change, as Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources in Nuuk noticed when two bowheads tagged on opposite sides of the Arctic met inViscount Melville Sound, near Baffin Bay in Nunavut. As the article relates,
Heide-Jørgensen thinks whales have been sneaking through, undetected, since the ice began to retreat. The Greenland population, once decimated by whalers, has grown suspiciously fast since 2000, and Heide-Jørgensen suspects the hand of immigration from Alaska. That’s perfectly possible, saysAviad Scheinin of the University of Haifa in Israel. In May 2010, he spotted a Pacific grey whale in the Mediterranean Sea, which probably got there via the Arctic. Further evidence of links between Atlantic and Pacific ecosystems comes from Cambridge bay in Nunavut, Canada, where pods of narwhals appeared on 15 August. They do not normally venture so far west, but shrinking ice seems to be changing that.
But what’s good news for whales is bad news for polar bears and walruses, and for the Inuit who rely on the floe-edge ecosystem for their own survival and that of their cultural traditions. As sea ice decreases, the walrus are running out of places to breed and polar bears are finding it harder and harder to hunt for food. Rapid changes could spell the end for the arctic as we know it.