A study has been published reviewing the abundance and population trend data for all 11 species of Arctic marine mammal across 12 regions of the Arctic.
Species richness was found to be highest in Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, and the Barents Sea, with lowest species richness in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Beaufort Sea. Much of the Arctic marine mammal abundance data was considered to be poor and outdated, clearly highlighting the need for further data collection. Eleven of the 12 Arctic regions showed statistically significant changes in sea ice between 1979-2013 with increasing summer periods when there is less ice cover.
Climate change and reduced ice cover is expected to lower the environmental carrying capacity for ice-dependent marine mammals. The authors recommend maintaining and improving co-management of of Arctic marine mammal populations, implementing clear monitoring programmes and mitigating cumulative impacts of increased human activity in the Arctic.
The lead author Kristin Laidre, polar scientist with the University of Washington, said:
“Sea ice is critical for Arctic marine mammals because events such as feeding, giving birth, molting, and resting are closely timed with the availability of their ice platform. It is especially critical for the ice-dependent species—seals and polar bears. Ice seals use the sea ice platform to give birth and nurse pups during very specific weeks of the spring, and polar bears use sea ice for feeding, starting in late winter and continuing until the ice breaks up.“
Could you name all 11 species? Here is the list:
- Bowhead whale
- Ringed seal
- Bearded seal
- Spotted seal
- Ribbon seal
- Harp seal
- Hooded seal
- Polar bear