Changes in the Arctic

Because the polar bear is the first large mammal that's facing extinction from global warming, it's the iconic image for climate change. Scientists estimate that 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears are left in the world. Polar bears feed on seals, which spend a lot of their time on the ice. Less ice coverage means fewer hunting opportunities for polar bears. Their lives are entirely dependent on the sea ice.

The melting ice is also bad news for the seals, even if it does reduce their chances of being claimed by a polar bear. All Arctic seals that depend on the ice for resting, breeding, and giving birth — including the bearded, ribbon, and ringed seals — are being put at risk by the ice melt.

In northern Canada, several species will be affected by the shrinking Arctic tundra, which is expected to shrink to a third of its original land cover while temperatures continue to warm. Because they'll be losing their primary source of food — species such as tundra plants — caribou and muskoxen are at risk. The Arctic tundra is also a breeding ground for geese, shorebirds, and the Siberian Crane. When the tundra shrinks, so does the area available for breeding, reducing the chance of breeding, as well.

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