Yet Another Effect of Climate Change

Marine mammals can reflect climate change intrinsically, though changes in their diet and condition, as well as extrinsically, through shifts in their range and habitat, Moore said. Many research reports presented at the conference document the way climate change is affecting species from polar bears to sea otters. Depending on regional conditions, climate change is likely to present new opportunities for some species such as humpback whales that will have access to new habitat, even as it poses new problems for other species, such as walrus and polar bears that have less ice to haul out or hunt on.

Source: Rapid Arctic warming drives shifts in marine mammals — ScienceDaily

Researchers must partner with subsistence hunters and local fishermen to track ecosystem changes in the Arctic, scientists said.  The Society of Marine Mammology’s conference was held in San Francisco this week, with researchers from several universities presenting reports.  The consensus was that there have already been many changes, and more are coming.

The potential for increasing competition between species from whales to polar bears reflects just one of many examples of how climate change is affecting marine mammals globally, introducing new interactions, altering food sources and shifting habitat, researchers at the conference reported. More than 2,000 researchers are attending the conference, the world’s largest gathering of scientists studying marine mammals, with climate change one of the leading themes.

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Barren Wastelands No More

Arctic Resources, Exposed by Warming, Set Off Competition - NYTimes.com

Arctic Resources, Exposed by Warming, Set Off Competition – NYTimes.com.

NUUK, Greenland — With Arctic ice melting at record pace, the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence and economic position in outposts like this one, previously regarded as barren wastelands.

The race is on to stake out territory and mineral rights in the Far North.  Now that more areas of Greenland are exposed, mining for rare earth minerals is possible during the summer.  China seems to be first in line with cash to invest in the operations.

While the United States, Russia and several nations of the European Union have Arctic territory, China has none, and as a result, has been deploying its wealth and diplomatic clout to secure toeholds in the region.

The route across the famed “Northwest Passage ” is a much shorter trip than even going through the Panama Canal, and China sent the first ship across this past summer.

There’s also a big pile of minerals in the Arctic, and the surrounding nations are staking claims.

Arctic Resources, Exposed by Warming, Set Off Competition - NYTimes.com

The Arctic Council is in charge of the waters.  People from surrounding countries sit on the Council, but other nations want to take part.

This once-obscure body, previously focused on issues like monitoring Arctic animal populations, now has more substantive tasks, like defining future port fees and negotiating agreements on oil spill remediation. “We’ve changed from a forum to a decision-making body,” said Gustaf Lind, Arctic ambassador from Sweden and the council’s current chairman.

Territorial claims in the Arctic are governed by the UN Law of the Sea, which remains unratified by the United States.

The United States has been hampered in the current jockeying because the Senate has refused to ratify the Convention of the Law of the Sea, even though both the Bush and Obama administrations have strongly supported doing so. This means the United States has not been able to formally stake out its underwater boundaries. “We are being left behind,” Deputy Secretary Nides said.

With the possibility of ice-free summers coming sooner than later, the Arctic will be a busy place.  Will the US Senate ratify the Treaty?  Will China gain an advantage in the area?  How will the Arctic Council resolve issues surrounding development in the newly ice-free waters?  And can this area be developed without harming the fragile environment?

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