It’s not just polar bears who are in trouble these days. The list of arctic animals threatened by global warming is growing.
Last week thousands of walruses were sighted congregating on the beaches of Northern Alaska– something that has happened before, but never so early and never in such great numbers.
So many animals crowding onto the beach can lead to deadly stampedes. It happened two years ago and it looks like it is about to happen again.
As arctic temperatures warm, red foxes are expanding their habitat northward, driving out the native arctic foxes who are simply disappearing.
Ringed seals, already in danger of extinction, are suffering too as their birthing dens are collapsed by early spring rains and snowmelt.
Fewer caribou calves are surviving because their mothers cannot adjust their calving season to changes in plant growth caused by warmer temperatures and earlier springs. The time when female caribou need the most food no longer coincides with the time when plants are plentiful.
Warming temperatures have increased the numbers of insects and parasites able to survive in the arctic as well. The winter moth is expanding northward, an unfortunate happening since this species defoliates dwarf birches and other typical arctic plants and trees.
An entire eco-system is changing dramatically and it is all happening at warp speed.The past decade has been the warmest in 2000 years in the arctic, It is impossible to tell what the long term effects will be, but one thing is clear. There is no going back.
The changes to man, animals and habitat are here to stay. We are going to have to adjust to them and that adjustment just may mean extinction for a number of plant and animal species. It will certainly also mean changes that reverberate across the planet to other climates and continents.
Everything is, after all, interconnected. The arctic as we know it may well be a thing of the past.It’s not just polar bears that are in trouble. It’s not just the arctic. It’s the entire world and most importantly, it’s us.