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
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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs