NOAA researcher says Arctic marine mammals are ecosystem sentinels

Feb 13, 2014
NOAA researcher says Arctic marine mammals are ecosystem sentinels
White killer whale swimming with its pod near the Aleutian Islands. Photo: H. Fearnbach, NMML, NMFS permit 782-1719.

As the Arctic continues to see dramatic declines in seasonal sea ice, warming temperatures and increased storminess, the responses of marine mammals can provide clues to how the ecosystem is responding to these physical drivers.

Seals, walruses and rely on seasonal sea ice for habitat and must adapt to the sudden loss of ice, while such as whales appear to be finding new prey, altering migration timing and moving to new habitats.

"Marine mammals can act as ecosystem sentinels because they respond to climate change through shifts in distribution, timing of their movements and feeding locations," said Sue Moore, Ph.D., a NOAA oceanographer, who spoke today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago. "These long-lived mammals also reflect changes to the ecosystem in their shifts in diet, body condition and physical health."

Moore, who was part of a panel of U.S. and Canadian scientists on the health of marine mammals and indigenous people in the Arctic, stressed the importance of integrating health research into the overall climate, weather, oceanographic and on changes in the Arctic.

"Marine mammals connect people to ecosystem research by making it relevant to those who live in the Arctic and depend on these mammals for diet and cultural heritage and people around the world who look to these animals as symbols of our planet's health," Moore said.

Explore further: Study finds loss of sea ice causes ecological changes

More information: Additional detail on ecosystem responses to Arctic climate change is available at the NOAA Arctic Report Card web site: www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/

For information on the Distributed Biological Observatory, a change detection array that brings together physical and biological observations in the Arctic go to this site: www.arctic.noaa.gov/dbo/about.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Arctic marine mammals on thin ice

Apr 23, 2008

The loss of sea ice due to climate change could spell disaster for polar bears and other Arctic marine mammals. The April Special Issue of Ecological Applications examines such potential effects, puts them in historical ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...