How Seals are Affected By Climate Change

By , December 31, 2012 8:08 am
ringed seals live in ice dens with their pups

Ringed seals are affected by climate change photo by Brendan Kelly/NSF

Ah, polar bears get all the attention because of the ice caps melting due to global warming, but there wouldn’t be any polar bears if us ice seals weren’t around to feed them! Not that I want to be polar bear lunch anytime soon, but I hope us ringed seals will get more attention soon.

That maybe coming true as the United States has recently listed 6 species of ice seals (2 bearded seals and 4 ringed seals) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is good news because it is happening before any of those species are critically endangered. It also lends support to those who believe in climate change.

I use the sea ice to breed, molt, give birth, and nurse my pup. Climate change will bring shorter ice seasons. That means that the ice cave that I build to keep my newborn pup safe and warm will be gone before my pup is ready to explore outside our den! Although increased snowfall is predicted during the rest of this century, much of it will before the seasonal ice forms. The snow will end of falling into the ocean instead of piling up on the ice! Also, increased rainfall will melt my snow den early.

So where does that leave me? Well, I will continue to do what I do so well, which is eat, swim, and reproduce, but the odds that my pup (or myself!) will survive is greatly reduced. Life in extremely cold environments is challenging in itself, but our food supply is dwindling because of overfishing and pollution. Sigh, I’d better get back to looking for food…

This post is based on this article at Scientific American

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