Guest post: Maria Kruk of Species.com

By , January 29, 2013 1:21 pm
Guest post Maria Kruk of Species.com

Sea otters photo by CA Dept of Fish and Game

Climate change affects all wildlife, including marine animals. Specifically, some species have already been put on the list of the most vulnerable wildlife due to global warming. Among those listed are different species of whales and sharks. They have lived in harmony with their aquatic environment for millions of years, and in the coming decades they are going to face important milestones.

Blue whales, blue sharks, and sea turtles are among the many species that are experiencing population declines and habitat loss. The distribution of marine predators might decrease by 35%, while the habitat of some marine birds and tuna species might decrease by 10-30%, according to scientific observations of some American and Canadian biologists.

The sea turtle population is declining for several reasons. Sea turtles prefer to lay eggs on the beaches that are in danger of becoming submerged by sea level rise due to climate change. Additionally, the sex of sea turtles’ offspring depends on the local temperature. Females are born in warmer climate conditions, while male turtles appear in colder conditions. Global warming will likely cause more females to be born, and possibly cause decreased (or increased) reproduction rates.

Sea otters may actually help with climate change (See previous post “How Sea Otters Fight Global Warming). Surprisingly, these small marine mammals can save larger predators! James Estes and Chris Wilmers, professors of biology from University of California at Santa Cruz, have distinguished sea otters as possible helpers in the reduction of carbon dioxide from the air. Sea otters are keystone species, and their consumption of sea urchins keeps the kelp growing in kelp forests. The kelp then absorbs carbon dioxide 12 times more than if sea otters were not around. The scientists collected data from the last 40 years from sea otters living around Vancouver Island and up north to the Aleutian Islands.

The problem of climate change will not solely be solved by the sea otters’ help, but it is a good example of how managing one animal population might reduce carbon dioxide in an entire ecosystem.

To reach Maria Kruk, visit Species.com

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