Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Scientists Investigate Massive Walrus Haul-Out in Alaska - The Guardian

photo credit USGS

Until now, walruses have hauled-out to rest on ice. But this year in Alaska they have been spotted on dry land.

"It's something that we have never seen before in this area," said Geoff York, of the WWF's global Arctic programme. "As the ice decreases, the walrus are abandoning it earlier and earlier. They are having to swim ashore, or to linger on less suitable drift ice for long periods of time."

The walrus has a 40% chance of extinction by 2095 because of climate change and reduced sea ice in the summer months, which is primarily where the animals live and rest.

When the walruses are forced to come on to dry land, there is an increased risk of being trampled by each other - especially young calves.

"The Arctic is warming at twice the rest of the world on average, and its seas are growing increasingly acidic because of increased concentrations of carbon dioxide."

This is also bad news for the walrus' food source. They forage on shellfish, whose calcium-carbonate shells are corroded away by the rising acid concentration in the sea.

Says Rebecca Noblin, the director of the Centre for Biological Diversity, "Unless we dramatically reduce our greenhouse emissions, the walrus is on a trajectory toward extinction."

Full article here (The Guardian)

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