The decreased level of Arctic sea ice may threaten the habitat of Beluga whale. This creature is an Arctic dweller, being one of the most amazing marine animals. Unfortunately, Belugas are listed as “near threatened” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature due to water contamination and whaling. However, specialists have identified that Beluga whale is currently experiencing a global threat.
- Unusual temperatures determined Arctic sea ice melting.
- On the sea ice layers, algae form in the spring, being the food of zooplankton.
- Beluga whales have less food due to the fact that melting sea ice layers affect the habitat of many marine creatures.
Based on the data provided by Thomas Brown of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Sams), beluga whales, like many other species which live in the Arctic, is threatened by climate change. Brown stated that these marine animals are among the first species which are to suffer because of global warming. To survive, belugas need to make significant changes, fishing further into the open water. Researchers need to reveal what exactly is the impact of climate change on the Beluga whale.
One of the main problems is the decreased population of algae on the Arctic sea ice. During spring, algae usually form on the underside of the ice layers. These plants are then eaten by the zooplankton which is in turn eaten by fish that reach to be eaten by seals. Later in the summer, when the sea ice melts, algae sinks deep into the water, reaching the seabed. There, it nourishes another food chain. Worms, benthic fish and other organisms which live on the sea floor feed on algae.
These small creatures are then eaten by the Beluga whale. Nevertheless, the level of sea ice has dramatically dropped lately in the Arctic. Usually, coverage hit its peak in mid-March, but due to climate change caused by the consumption of fossil fuels that power a high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, less ice is forming during the winter season. Approximately 1.2 million square km of winter sea ice melted.
This means that algae have now a smaller surface on which they can grow. Brown stated that if we were to exclude the sea ice, there are no sea ice algae either. If the basic food of the chain disappears, that might endanger the rest of the Arctic wildlife. Scientists have already determined that marine species which feed on zooplankton are currently declining.
Global warming affects the whole planet and several habitats, jeopardizing the life of millions of species, spreading out like a disease.
Image courtesy of: flickr