News / Science & Technology

Melting Arctic Triggers Re-arrangement of Marine Life

This Pacific gray whale, spotted off the coast of Israel in 2010, most likely was able to migrate into the Mediterranean as the result of the shrinking of Arctic sea ice due to climate change.
This Pacific gray whale, spotted off the coast of Israel in 2010, most likely was able to migrate into the Mediterranean as the result of the shrinking of Arctic sea ice due to climate change.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Rosanne Skirble

About the same time early humans were learning to make fire, a tiny marine plant disappeared from the Atlantic Ocean. Now, some 800,000 years later, it’s back.

The microscopic algae was previously blocked by Arctic ice. However, melting glaciers have opened a channel for the algae to make the trip from the Pacific Ocean, where it is abundant.  

Open waters

The last time water flowed free between the Pacific and Atlantic was two to three million years ago, says oceanographer Philip Reid of the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science.

“And other species in the Atlantic were almost certainly made extinct and there is the danger that this could happen again. If the ice retreats further, as is expected, within possibly 40 years time, the whole of the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer months of the year.”

Deep sea sediment cores confirm that the tiny species of plankton called Neodenticula seminae hasn’t been seen in the Atlantic Ocean in 800,000 years.
Deep sea sediment cores confirm that the tiny species of plankton called Neodenticula seminae hasn’t been seen in the Atlantic Ocean in 800,000 years.

Reid, who reported the event in the Journal Global Change Biology, says the algae  - which plays a key role in helping absorb carbon from the atmosphere in the Pacific - is now well established in the Atlantic, as far south as New York.  

It’s unknown whether the changes are having an impact on other species. What’s more significant, he says, is that it is an indicator of change and of what we might see in the future.

One thing is certain. Arctic ice is melting at an accelerating rate and the oceans are warming. Studies show the last six years - between 2005 and 2010 - were the warmest years recorded in the Arctic since measurements began in 1880.

Curious comeback

Another curious event was the appearance, last year, of a Pacific grey whale in the Mediterranean Sea.

Grey whales, once common in the Atlantic, were hunted to extinction 300 years ago, says Katja Philippart, a marine biologist with the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research.  She says the most plausible explanation for the grey whale’s appearance is the opening of the Arctic waters.  

Philippart is coordinator of the Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystem Research Project or CLAMER, a joint effort among 17 marine institutes in 10 European countries.

CLAMER is gathering data from 300 climate-related studies from the last 13 years that focus on Europe’s oceans and coastal waters as well as the Mediterranean, Baltic and Black Seas.

Timing shift

Philippart observes three broad trends: the opening of the arctic, the movement of sea life northward and the shift in timing of how animals and plants grow.

The breeding success of the Atlantic puffin is impacted by warming seas.
The breeding success of the Atlantic puffin is impacted by warming seas.

Warmer waters and other changing conditions mean some prey species are no longer available when their predators need them.

Philippart cites the example of the Atlantic puffin, a seabird that breeds off the coast of Norway.  

“They lay their eggs at such a time that if the chicks need food, the young herring is passing along the coastline and they take it and bring it to the young," she says. "But the recent advancement of this timing of the herring, so now the herring passes before the chicks are hatched from the eggs, meaning that once the chicks are there and hungry the herring has already passed and the puffins don’t have the herring anymore to feed to their young.”

Mixed consequences

Overall, Philippart says, the CLAMER studies show that this re-arrangement of marine life will likely have mixed consequences.

“It could be for the good. It could be for the worse.  It could be different from area to area. So some places stocks are declining and other areas stocks are growing and that makes it hard.  So we can only indicate: Be prepared for change.”

Philippart adds that it is important to continue ocean research to determine how best to adapt to the inevitable climatic changes.

Project CLAMER concludes with an international conference in Brussels in September.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid