Arctic Sea Ice, Key To Life

in The Life Slant by

*Last weekend, an Arctic heatwave caused the mercury to spike to 87 degrees (31C) in northwest Russia. Rapid sea ice loss in April set an all-time record, 479,000 square miles below the long-term average. The supremely adapted Arctic food chain is unraveling in real time, right now. Starvation is highly evident.

Sea ice algae nourishes the awesome polar web of life. Image credit: Laura Dalman

The Arctic sea ice is vital for growing algae. That algae helps to remove increasing Man-made levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Algae are also an essential food source for a host of miniature polar marine life including copepods, amphipods, other zooplankton creatures and krill. They all feed on sea ice undersides.

A glorious pink swarm of millions of krill. Image credit: Saildrone

Trillions of krill parachute from the ocean surface to the deeper layers several times during the night. Their fecal pellets store immense amounts of atmospheric carbon along the seafloor, which, in turn, feeds a vast array of bottom dwelling life, i.e. amphipods, sea worms and so many other others.

My colleagues have estimated that one species of krill alone in the Southern Ocean transports the equivalent amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide offsetting the annual emissions of 35 million automobiles.

200-ton Blue whales are the largest creatures to ever inhabit Earth. They need krill. #Respect

The record amount of missing sea ice is disastrous for so many permanent and migrating Arctic inhabitants. Fish feed on seafloor sediments enriched by algae. Seals eat those fish. Polar bears eat those seals.

In the summertime, migrating blues, fins, humpbacks, seis, minkes and other baleen, or, filter feeding, whales such as the Grays add mega tons to their bodies by eating krill, which must sustain them for another 8 months. Grays also depend upon a rich supply of invertebrates that make a living in bottom sediments, like amphipods and worms.

The missing Arctic sea ice is denying crucial food to bankroll the Grays.”

So far this year 32 dead baleen whales have washed ashore along North America’s Pacific coastline, almost a dozen Grays in northern California alone. Many starved to death as evidenced by emaciated bodies. The missing Arctic sea ice is denying crucial food to bankroll the Grays.

On May 15, the tenth Gray whale this year washed ashore in Pacifica, northern California. Image credit: CNN

Missing ice cover also means that polar bears are in dire jeopardy, too. They depend upon copious winter sea ice for hunting and adding girth to contend with low intake during the summertime and mating.

Entering the now heatwave laden summer months has become a slippery slope on the road to starvation for the Arctic’s apex predators, polar bears. Already, Russia’s masterpiece bears are starving during the wintertime.

A starving polar bear was found wandering in the Russian village of Tilichiki on April 16, 2019, 420 miles from his home. Image credit: CNN

The Arctic is warming at least two times faster than elsewhere on the globe. All hell is breaking loose from subsidized fossil fuel heat. Both winter and summer heatwaves are driving the Arctic jet stream much farther south, compared to just a decade ago. As a result, extreme weather events are piling up. Astronomical insurance payouts are mounting. We are all in harms way.

Dr Bob Brown (center) has campaigned ceaselessly to stop Adani’s Carmichael coalmine from digging up the Galilee Basin, polluting the Doongmabulla Springs and its vast underground water source and killing the remainder of the Great Barrier Reef. Image credit: The Guardian
  • Reduce fossil fuel emissions now.
  • End annual$5.2T fossil fuel subsidies immediately.
  • Dovetail all industries within all 197 countries to attain a zero-combustion global economy by 2030.
  • Vote for lawmakers who will protect the people and the planet not the subsidized planet-killing fossil fuel oligarchs and the avarice bankers backing them.
  • Consume less.
  • Travel less.
  • Switch to a plant-based diet. It’s the single biggest thing that each of us can do right now to fight the climate crisis.
  • Support Gen Zs by joining their climate strikes and the Extinction Rebellion movement.

“For way too long, the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything to fight the climate crisis, but we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer. We are striking because we have done our homework and they have not,” said the 16 year-old leader of the Gen Zs, Greta Thunberg.

#Resist

#GoVegan

#FridaysForFuture

#Strike4Climate

#ExtinctionRebellion

#ConsumeLess

#StopAdani

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Dr. Reese Halter

Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.

Dr Reese Halter’s latest book is
Love! Nature

Tweet @RelentlessReese

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