Eric Regehr, USFS
Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Marine mammals face an uncertain future due to loss of sea ice and warming temperatures.

Aquatic and Fishery Sciences’ Kristin Laidre and a team from across the globe just published their findings on what the future looks like for Arctic marine mammals, whose fragile habitats are shifting as a result of sea ice loss and warming temperatures. Their recent study, published in Conservation Biology, found that reductions in sea ice cover are “profound” and that the Arctic’s traditionally short, cool summers are growing longer in most regions by five to 10 weeks. In the Barents Sea off of Russia, the summer period increased by about five months. The species most at risk from the changes are polar bears and ice-associated seals, who need ice to find food, mates, and rear their young. While the overall numbers and trends due to climate change are unknown for most of the 78 populations of marine mammals included in the report, Laidre says accurate scientific data about population sizes and trends over time will be key to making informed decisions about conservation challenges and tradeoffs in the 21st century. The report includes several recommendations, including maintaining and improving co-management with local and governmental entities, improving long-term monitoring of Arctic species, studying and mitigating the impacts of increasing human activities and more, and its authors hope it will bring greater attention to the status of Arctic mammals and provoke a broader public response.

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