The Arctic is becoming warmer faster than any other place on the earth, with both the north of the Barents Sea and the Svalbard Archipelago seeing the greatest temperature rises as well as the quickest amount of ice sheet loss inside the pole-ward Arctic (Descamps et al., 2016). This is due to climate change. Such modifications impact a wide range of permanent Arctic creatures and a few temporary migrants. Global warming is having a significant effect on the Arctic ecosystem, with the substantial changes in the entire planet phenomena being a decrease in snow, and glacier ice, heating up of permafrost, and rises in vegetation efficiency. Climatic changes stimulated by shrub intrusion are all predicted to moderate changes in food webs.
The substantial warming forecasted for said Arctic throughout the subsequent centuries could lead to typical mid-winter temperatures nearing zero degrees. This would result in many further ramifications for the area’s ecosystems. While researching the consequences of climate change, researchers have focused their attention on arctic ecosystems (Descamps et al., 2016). Perhaps, a chief factor for that is that the Arctic is predicted to face utmost substantial changes while also experiencing the fastest warming than any other ecosystem on the planet. In comparison to other ecosystems, the Arctic region is thought to be consistent and exhibit minimal climate change vulnerability. For that reason, this essay describes how arctic animals are affected by consistent climate change and why they are feared to become extinct soon.
How Climate Change is Negatively Impacting Arctic Animals
Polar bears primarily rely on sea ice because they prey on glacier seals and travel across ice passageways. Pregnant female polar bears make their winter homes on sea ice or land in places with substantial snow cover (Hassol, 2004, p. 58). These moms do not feed for seven months until they come out of their caves with their offspring during spring. Their excellence in hunting seals, which is highly dependent on favorable spring weather, is critical to the bear’s survival. Adjustments in ice cover and consistency are so important. Therefore, actual and anticipated sea ice losses are highly probable to have disastrous implications for the grizzly bear.
The first effects of climate change are likely to happen in the southernmost boundaries of bear habitat, including Hudson and James Bays located in Canada. Such consequences have previously been reported in recent decades (Hassol, 2004, p. 58). The health of senior polar bears inside Hudson Bay has deteriorated over the previous two decades, along with the total number of births that survive and the percentage of first-year offspring throughout the population. From 1981 to 1998, polar bears within Hudson Bay had fifteen percent decreases in both the number of offspring born and their average weight. Female bears have quite a lengthier time of yearly fasting because of the subsequent development of ice cover in October and faster break-up during spring; therefore, their reproductive achievement is closely tied to dietary fat storage.
Females polar bears who are underweight have thinner litters, as well as cubs have a lower chance of survival due to global warming effects. Climate change is predicted to increase overall bear fatalities (Hassol, 2004, p. 58). Increased intensity and frequency of rains during spring, for instance, are already prompting some shelters to crumble, killing mothers and babies. Early spring glacier break-up might isolate typical den locations from spring feasting regions, and newborn cubs are unable to swim thousands of kilometers from caves to eating places.
Polar bears appear doubtful to thrive as a viable species should summer sea land ice disappear nearly completely, as certain climate experts suggest by the turn of the era. Polar bears’ sole foreseeable alternative is to transition toward a land-based summertime existence. However, competition, the danger of mating with grizzly and brown bears, and greater human contact would further challenge their species’ viability (Hassol, 2004, p. 58). Polar bear extinction is anticipated to have serious and immediate effects on the environments that they now inhabit.
The rising environmental stress produced by the changing climate combines with the pressures generated by the chemical pollutants of grizzly bears. These bears, who are at the summit of the seafood chain, collect pollutants from their fat through consuming ringed seals or other sea animals that have ingested chemicals from eating polluted creatures below that food web. Polar bears were also discovered to contain high amounts of heavy metals and chlorinated chemicals (Hassol, 2004, p. 61). Toxins may be embedded in adipose in certain situations, preventing the toxins from damaging the polar bears’ well-being while fat stores are sufficient. However, once the adipose deposits are depleted throughout a bad feeding phase, the toxins are absorbed by the body. Grizzly bears in certain Arctic regions have been reported to have diminished stored fat over recent years as ice cover breaks up quicker and earlier, sending them onshore in order to starve for extended timeframes.
Ice-dependent seals, such as the ribbon seal, bearded seal, and ringed seal, are precisely susceptible to the pragmatic and expected decrease in Arctic ocean ice since these animals reproduce and take care of their young ones on the Arctic ice, which also serves as their resting platform (Hassol, 2004). These ice-dependent creatures also hunt at the ice border and beneath the ice covers. Ringed seals are thought to become the most impacted sea seal species since their entire existence is dependent on ice cover. They need enough snowpack to build lairs, and thus the ice cover has to be solid and adequate in the summer to effectively nurse curbs. Early glacier break-up might culminate in the early isolation of curbs from their mothers, resulting in greater rates of infant mortality.
For ice-dependent seals to adopt a new life on bare land when the ocean ice has vanished, it takes longer, and it is a difficult transition for them as the animals had hardly stayed on land in the past. Moving onto bare land due to the depletion of Arctic ice cover seems to be a tough change in the ecosystem for these sea creatures (Hassol, 2004). It would be difficult to adapt to the new environment. For instance, reproduction on land would pose a great danger to their young ones as the pups would become more exposed to the risk of getting attacked by predators. The pups would also suffer greatly from adverse climate change and hardly thrive on land. Spotted seals and harp seals are other groups of ice-dependent creatures that are in similar danger if the ice cover becomes depleted. Spotted seals and harp seal exclusively breed in the Arctic ice edge during spring. Thus once the Arctic ice is no more, spotted seals may become rapidly extinct within a short period.
As mentioned earlier, the arctic ice region is a highly productive area that is especially vulnerable to global climate change. One of the most fruitful locations is those closest to the beaches and along the coastal plains. The marine ecosystem will lose certain most lucrative regions when sea ice moves further from the coastlines. Since walrus animals are bottom feeders which consume clams and perhaps other shellfish mostly on the coastline, the glacier edge serves as a perfect spot for eating and resting in many regions. There would be no mussels nearby when the glacier edge advances far from the coastal shelves and into deeper places. Walruses may also travel hundreds or thousands of miles across the ice sheets, permitting them to forage across a large region.
For instance, Chuckchi Sea’s sanctuary of Pacific walruses is vanishing under them even as rising temperatures melt the polar ice throughout the spring. This compels the enormous creatures to move out from the water and ice-covering regions and occasionally dwell onshore. While on land, walruses are separated from the saltwater species on which they graze (Kinsinger, 2016). This displacement multiplies the distance required to be traveled by the walrus as well as the number of calories expended while feeding. Furthermore, walruses and their young ones congregate in huge numbers ashore, raising the risk of fatal trampling and disease transmission.
In ice-free conditions, walruses and other ice-dependent creatures face various challenges (Kinsinger, 2016). Adjustment requires a while, and these animal species have to adjust to their natural circumstances for a minimum of a few thousand generations to come. Present climate changes are occurring at a rate that is significantly quicker than these animals can normally adjust.
The most serious danger to these animals’ habitat seems to be global warming, which seems to be predominantly driven by fossil fuel use and results in the thawing of the sea-ice ecosystem (Kinsinger, 2016). These energy sources are discovered deep beneath walrus feeding areas and then are harvested in large amounts from surrounding Arctic regions.
Other threats posed by the absence of Arctic ice include visual and noise disruptions from airplanes and pacific boats, which tend to travel in the region (Kinsinger, 2016). The introduction of trans-Atlantic shipping, which poses the same threats as native maritime traffic, as well as the possibility of invading marine creatures, adds to the existing maritime traffic. Oil leaks from ships and oil extraction from the Russian and United States sides of the Coast are a great threat to the existence of walrus species.
The Arctic ecosystem is highly cyclical, and bird reproduction phenologies closely resemble enhanced summer and spring resource availability. Most bird species seem to migrate and leave the Arctic region during winter. Thus due to adverse climate change, sea birds may migrate significantly (Clairbaux et al., 2019). During this season, the mortality rate increases rapidly as the winter ecosystem quality and long-distance flights impose carry-over impacts on succeeding breeding success. Generally, migration significantly leads to influential seabird population change.
Climate change in the Arctic region has both indirect and direct impacts on sea birds since such migratory species are specifically sensitive to change (Clairbaux et al., 2019). Remarkably, a change in climatic conditions in the Arctic may lead to the modification of sea bird migratory phenologies. This is majorly due to the shift of wintering seasons that may make it difficult to access the breeding sites for sea birds. Global climate change can even lead populations or sea bird species to switch from a resident to a migratory behavior for their survival. The opposite may also happen.
Global warming effect in the past has rapidly affected the arctic regions causing a significant rise in temperatures to at least twice the globe’s average (Clairbaux et al., 2019). Notably, this temperature change has marked effects on the polar cryosphere: the middle section of the Arctic. Some parts have been permanently and entirely concealed by multi-layers of sea ice over the past five thousand years. Unfortunately, due to the massive increase in temperatures in the arctic, the cryosphere is predicted to become completely ice-free after the completion of the twenty-first century. Such a dramatic modification would definitely pose great consequences for the entire population in the arctic, including the sea birds.
This would be adverse. Some sea bird species, for instance, the little auks and the ivory gulls, are going to be in great negative danger due to the depletion of arctic ice and the succeeding climate changes to the ecosystem where they inhabit (Clairbaux et al., 2019). It is sudden that such sea bird species yearly rely on the arctic ice for breeding and thriving of their young ones. Furthermore, these sea birds use the rocky cliffs created by the arctic ice to act as protective and hiding sites from dangerous predators. Perhaps, with the further retreat of arctic ice from the habitable coastal breeding sites in the Arctic, there is much to worry about the future or existence of certain seabird species.
The massive drop of multiyear glaciers in the polar regions is expected to be extremely disruptive to even the tiny living organisms linked with the arctic because they would eventually be deprived of their permanent shelter (Hayward & Grigor, 2020). According to research conducted in the south Atlantic, ice algae found at the bottom of the seafood chain are thought to have been significantly impacted by the rapid global warming effects over the past decades. The findings demonstrate that the majority of the bigger marine algae underneath the ice sheets have died and were supplanted by less viable green algae.
Scientists believe this is due to thawing, which has created a large thick coat of relatively new water beneath the surviving ice, yet another deeper compared to twenty years ago (Hayward & Grigor, 2020). The Hudson Bay and Bering Sea found in the southern Arctic, wherein glaciers are already vanishing sooner in springtime and developing during the fall, are anticipated to be some of the locations most seriously impacted by the thawing effect. While polar temperatures continue to rise, ice sheets will disappear quickly above continental regions in the summer and retreat toward shallow water of the middle Arctic.
Importance of Arctic animals
There are a lot of benefits of arctic mammals. First, arctic animals sustain life. Arctic Ocean dwellers thrive on a tremendous spike of output caused by sunshine during the short summertime (Stafford, 2016). Throughout this brief period of ice-free weather, nutrient-rich waterways offer fuel and nourishment for a wide range of animals. Because of its amazing quantity, the Arctic is crucial to fish, birds, walruses, seals, whales, and other animals.
Secondly, the arctic is a suitable habitat for sea birds. The Arctic attracts seabirds from all corners of the planet. Seabirds of various sizes migrate here to breed, lay eggs, and rear their newborns (Kuletz, 2016). Countless birds reap the benefits of the Arctic season’s bounty to replenish and recharge before resuming their nomadic trips.
Thirdly, the arctic is a home for many wildlife. This includes most iconic sea mammals, such as polar bears. Polar bears cruise the iceberg, searching for ringed seals (Christman, 2016). The Arctic is also a habitat for Pacific penguins. These creatures dive off sea ice and utilize their sensory whiskers to find mollusks, mostly on the sea floor. Many whales, notably massive bowhead whales and sociable beluga whales that may live for almost two hundred years, cruise in such seas. Moreover, gray whales make an incredible migration to the Arctic habitats to spend their entire summertime.
The fourth importance is that it provides more research opportunities for scientists since there is a lot left to explore and learn in the Arctic. Scientists have only begun to fully comprehend how diverse and rich the Arctic Ocean and the area are (Jansen, 2017). Furthermore, scientists have begun to acknowledge the importance of the Arctic region to the communities that reside there, the remaining United States, and the entire planet. Thus, more research needs to be done to get knowledge concerning this rapidly and diverse changing ocean environment and also get educated from the researchers of Alaska’s intrinsic inhabitants in the Arctic. It is only through more research that scientists will completely comprehend the measures and techniques required to preserve an unharmed Arctic ecosystem as well as everything that is at stake in the valuable Arctic environment.
Lastly, the significance of durability amid periods of transition. Whereas the Arctic is vital, some crucial places have prolonged ice cover or increased concentrations of primary production that nourish the food web (Jansen, 2017). Scientists have discovered that this phenomenon is frequently linked to geophysical phenomena in the sea. In the Arctic regions, where there is a massive rise in temperatures, productive regions are expected to remain so for many decades. Due to their resilience, it is critical to safeguard the essential maritime regions. Maintaining the overall well-being of these places will have long-term advantages for Arctic maritime ecology.
Polar Bear ecosystem, Disadvantages
Not to forget, the arctic also has a few disadvantages to take into account (Jordan & Sophia). Pollutants are a major issue since they may kill numerous creatures, notably polar bears that drink seawater or consume seafood. The pollutants, particularly oil spills, may enter the lungs of sea creatures and cause severe illness. One of the reasons grizzly bears are becoming endangered is because of such pollutants.
Climate change, pollution, and humankind’ indirectly pose a significant negative impact on these endangered populations. These animals particularly include polar bears, seabirds, walruses, and ice-dependent seals. Further than habitat destruction and foraging grounds, global warming poses other bad hazards to these species found in the Arctic. For instance, they are subjected to a greater disease risk owing to tropical temperatures, severe environmental pollution effects, rising snow cover due to extra earth’s atmosphere and shoreline pollution poleward, competitive pressures as subtropical and tropical species broaden their ranges poleward, and implications resulting in increased innovation and human traffic in previously unexplored ice-covered regions. These animals may go extinct as decades pass unless immediate action is taken. Humankind must prioritize climate change and implement new initiatives and ideas to save these sea creatures from becoming extinct. Nevertheless, the first step is to spread awareness of the importance of mitigating factors that promote climate change in the Arctic areas.
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