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Study: High Arctic’s biodiversity down 26 percent since 1970

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Arctic landscapeMammals, birds and fish living in the High Arctic experienced an average 26 percent drop in their populations between 1970 and 2004 due to the loss of sea ice, according to a new report from The Arctic Species Trend Index, "Tracking Trends in Arctic Wildlife."

The 2010 report, commissioned and coordinated by the Whitehorse, Yukon–based Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), was presented Wednesday at the State of the Arctic Conference in Miami. It covers 965 populations of 365 species, representing 35 percent of all known vertebrate species found in the Arctic.

The Arctic region is broken into three floristic zones (High, Low and Sub Arctic), referring to the amount of plant life that exists within the regions’ boundaries.

Outside of the High Arctic, the news wasn’t all bad: The study found that Low Arctic species populations increased 46 percent between 1970 and 2004 (aided by several conservation efforts, such as tighter restrictions on hunting bowhead whales), whereas Sub Arctic populations remained stable during that time period.

Among the specific findings: Low Arctic fish species such as pollack have benefited from rising ocean temperatures, which is why their populations have increased. Populations of lemmings, caribou and red knot (a shorebird) have all decreased. Migratory birds that pass through the Arctic have decreased an average of 6 percent, although that number is skewed by a "dramatic increase" in some populations of migratory geese.Furthermore, brown bear populations have dropped as much as 50 percent in the last 15 years.

The report avoids direct mention of polar bear populations, but notes that the greatest losses in Arctic sea ice on which the polar bear relies occurred in 2008 and 2009, outside the range of this study.

The CBMP is now calling for increased efforts to count and catalogue Arctic species because many, especially those in the High Arctic, lack detailed population indices.

Image: Arctic region by Andrew Smith. Via Stock.xchng


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  1. 1. candide 8:13 am 03/18/2010

    This is data, a fact – yet it will be twisted into something else by people that do not think the global climate is changing.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Tulugaq Nuummiu 8:56 am 03/18/2010

    Just a proof that climate change is natural. But if biodiversity is down with 26 percent, what does that mean. How many mammals have disappeared? Or does it mean that f.ex. the population of caribou in Umimmat Nunaat has fallen from 100 to 74?

    "….but notes that the greatest losses in Arctic sea ice on which the polar bear relies occurred in 2008 and 2009…" ?

    Polar bears rely on sea ice in the winter, not in the summer!

    Link to this
  3. 3. candide 9:28 am 03/18/2010

    This is not proof that climate change "is natural."
    It is proof that climate IS CHANGING.

    Debates over the cause of climate change are one thing, but there are people who deny that the climate is changing at all.

    Link to this
  4. 4. rhodinsthinker 9:52 am 03/18/2010

    Tulugaq Nuummiu, I thought that polar bears hunted during the summer and hibernated in the winter. Not being active in the winter, they would not then rely on sea ice.

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  5. 5. Tulugaq Nuummiu 10:35 am 03/18/2010

    Here in Nuuk, Greenland, the climate has always been changing. F.ex. was it warmer in the 1930′s and 1940′s than now –

    And about polar bears around Nuuk –

    Link to this
  6. 6. Sisko 2:24 pm 03/18/2010

    This is not proof of anything. It is a headline to continue to get people to be unnecessarily worry about climate change.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Sisko 3:16 pm 03/18/2010

    Candide- what are the bad things that you believe a warmer planet causes for humanity??

    Link to this
  8. 8. Sisko 3:53 pm 03/18/2010

    Candide- What negative consequences do you believe will happen as a result of the world being warmer? I do not know of anything overall that should be worse in the long run.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Grasshopper1 6:12 pm 03/18/2010

    Sisko- If the planet gets warmer, sea levels will rise and cause
    flooding. Some of the animals and crops that commonly come on our dinner tables will die out. More people will get heatstroke.
    Those are just some of the negative consequences that will happen as a result of global warming.

    Link to this
  10. 10. robert schmidt 8:42 pm 03/18/2010

    @Grasshopper1, but if those things only happened to Sisko, they wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    Link to this
  11. 11. Sisko 9:22 am 03/19/2010

    OK…LOL @ Grasshopper and Robert Schmidt

    So is your primary concern that sea levels will rise? Are you aware that current sea levels are near to their historical lows when looked at over a period of 500 M years? Sea levels WILL rise independent of human actions based upon a historical analysis. (please look up either the Hallam or Exxon sea level curves. Both highly respected sources for long term sea level data)

    As to animals that we rely on for food dying, there is reason to believe there would be any effect. As to food crop production, there is also no data to support your assumption. Studies have shown that a greater amount of land woul be useable for farmland as a result of a warmer earth. it woulr simply in different areas.

    So since this potential sea level rise will happen over a period of many decades, will eventually happen in any case, and can actually be of a benefit to humanity overall…why the huge worry??? It is not like animals have not died independent of humans before.

    Link to this
  12. 12. Sisko 9:41 am 03/19/2010

    comments seem to be taking a while to post

    Link to this
  13. 13. mo98 12:07 am 03/23/2010

    How does "an average 26 percent drop in their populations between 1970 and 2004 due to the loss of sea ice" equate to 26 percent extinctions as suggested by the article headline, High Arctic’s biodiversity down 26 percent since 1970?

    Link to this

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