Arctic sea butterflies swim, video


This 19 May 2020 video says about itself:

How Sea Butterflies “Fly” in Water

Birds fly, and fish swim. We learn this when we are children. But not everything in nature is quite so simple… Meet Limacina helicina, an Arctic-dwelling sea butterfly that flies through the water.

Hosted by: Hank Green.

How Arctic rock ptarmigans save energy


This October 2012 video is called Svalbard rock ptarmigan (winter plumage).

From Lund University:

Arctic wildlife uses extreme method to save energy

April 28, 2020

The extreme cold, harsh environment and constant hunt for food means that Arctic animals have become specialists in saving energy. Now, researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a previously unknown energy-saving method used by birds during the polar night.

Researchers from Lund University and the University of Tromsø have examined the immune system strength of the Svalbard rock ptarmigan in the Arctic. This bird lives the farthest up in the Arctic of any land bird, and the researchers have investigated how the immune response varies between winter and late spring.

When I was in Svalbard in June, I saw rock ptarmigans. Including a male which had spent the night on a telephone pole (safe from local Arctic foxes). He landed and mated with a female.

“We have discovered that the birds reduce how much they spend on keeping their own immune defence system up and running during the five months of the year when it is dark around the clock, probably to save energy. Instead, they use those resources on keeping warm and looking for food. When daylight returns, their immune response is strengthened again,” says Andreas Nord, researcher at Lund University.

The researchers found that when the birds become ill in mid-winter, their energy consumption drops compared to when they are healthy. However, when the birds become ill in late spring, their energy consumption increases instead.

“A weaker immune system is probably a part of all the adaptations that Arctic animals use to save energy in winter. The risk of being infected by various diseases so far north is less in winter than when it becomes warmer towards summer,” says Andreas Nord.

When Svalbard rock ptarmigan save energy in this manner, they do so by weakening an already weak immune system. According to the researchers, this is probably due to the fact that the species evolved in the Arctic where there has been less of a need for a very strong immune defence system.

“This may have negative consequences when the climate changes and migratory birds arrive earlier in the Arctic and leave later. More and more tourists also come ashore in places where people have not set foot before. Such a scenario paves the way for an increased risk of disease and may be a threat to animals that have evolved in the Arctic where a strong immune defence system might not have been needed,” Andreas Nord concludes.

Young Brünnich guillemots’ first flight


This 19 February 2020 video says about itself:

Tiny Guillemot Chick’s Treacherous First Flight | BBC Earth

Guillemot chicks have to take a daring first flight from their cliff-edge nests to the open ocean. Dangers lie between; can they evade the hungry Arctic foxes below?

Whale, walrus, and seal calls in the Arctic


This 2016 video says about itself:

Humpback whales feeding on herring in the Unimak Pass area of the Bering Sea.

The birds are shearwaters that migrate from the Southern Hemisphere.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Scientists listen to whales, walruses and seals in a changing Arctic seascape

Multi-year, year-round acoustic study in northern Bering Sea records more than 30,000 whale, walrus, and seal calls

February 3, 2020

A year-round acoustic study of marine mammals in the northern Bering Sea is providing scientists with a valuable snapshot of an Arctic world already under drastic pressure from climate change, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), Columbia University, Southall Environmental Associates, and the University of Washington.

Authors of the new study in the journal Marine Mammal Science conducted a 4-year acoustic monitoring project to determine how seasons, sea surface temperature, and sea ice influence the presence, distribution, and movements of five species of endemic Arctic marine mammals. It is the first study to conduct year-round acoustic monitoring for marine mammals off St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea.

“The data gathered during the study will serve as an important baseline for future monitoring of the effects of climate change, subsequent sea ice changes, and expected increases in shipping on the distribution of the region’s marine mammals,” said Emily Chou, WCS scientist and lead author of the study.

The scientists conducted the study between 2012 and 2016 with a focus on five species of Arctic marine mammal: bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), and ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata).

With the support of local indigenous hunters and fishermen, the scientists deployed archival acoustic recorders in three locations in the northern Bering Sea. “Working with local residents to deploy and retrieve equipment was an important part of our effort to keep the work as locally-based as possible,” said co-author Martin Robards.

Two of the recorders (attached to flotation devices and anchored to the seafloor with weights) were deployed off the northern shore of St. Lawrence Island, specifically near the Native villages of Savoonga and Gambell. The third recorder was placed in the Bering Strait, a 36-mile wide gap between the Russian Far East and Alaska that serves as the migratory pathway for thousands of marine mammals moving between the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean.

“Acoustic monitoring is the most effective means of determining the seasonal presence of these species in these challenging Arctic areas, given the unpredictable weather conditions and variable daylight and ice conditions,” said Brandon Southall, a co-author on the study. “It can also be used to measure variability in ocean noise from both natural and human sources, such as shipping, and how they may affect the behavior and well-being of marine mammals.”

The recorders logged more than 33,000 individual vocalizations from whales, walruses, and seals over the study period. Overall, the study supported previous scientific and traditional knowledge about the distribution of marine mammals in the northern Bering Sea with a finer-scale resolution than previously available. The data showed consistent seasonal distribution and movement patterns for most species, and analyses showed that time-of-year was the most statistically significant factor in the detection of marine mammal vocalization.

The study findings will help guide future monitoring efforts on the region’s cetacean and pinniped species and will inform conservation management decisions for acoustically sensitive marine mammals in the context of disappearing ice and projected increases in maritime traffic. Specifically, this type of work and continued monitoring at strategic locations in this Arctic area will eventually help identify trends caused by long-term changes in environmental conditions and human-related activities.

“There is no doubt that the Arctic is currently undergoing rapid and significant changes that are alarming,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. “Our work on Arctic marine mammal populations in this region is essential to assess any forthcoming resulting shifts or changes resulting from warming Arctic conditions, and ultimately working partners and authorities to find solution to protect these iconic species and their habitats”.

Arctic seabirds and global warming, new research


This August 2018 video is about a long-tailed jaeger.

From the University of Barcelona in Spain:

Early breeding season for some Arctic seabirds due to global warming

October 7, 2019

The breeding season of some seabirds in Arctic regions takes place earlier as a result of the temperature rise caused by climate change, according to a science article with Francisco Ramírez, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona -as one of the main authors.

According to the study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, surface-feeding seabirds in the north of the Pacific Ocean are moving their breeding season to an earlier timing than the rest of species -about ten days before for over the last thirty-five years- due the ocean’s temperature rise and ice melting, which are signs of Spring onset in the Arctic.

The first author of this study -which is focused on the analysis of twenty-nine seabird species from thirty-six different locations- is Sébastien Descamps, from the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø (Norway). Other researchers from several institutions and research centers in Norway, Spain, Canada, France and the United States have taken part in the study.

When Spring arrives earlier

The Arctic is one of the most sensitive areas to the global warming effects. Ice melting and the continuous rise of temperatures -higher than the average worldwide- are dramatically altering the structure of the Arctic ecosystems.

“Polar systems are among the most threatened in the world. This is causing substantial changes in environmental conditions which condition the survival of the organisms that live in extreme latitudes. Birds, and specially seabirds, represent one of the most threatened taxonomic groups due the effects of global warming and the human activity impact (fishing, etc.)”, notes Francisco Ramírez, member of the Department of Animal Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

In Arctic regions, the time period with optimal conditions for the reproduction of seabirds is quite limited. The new study focuses on the analysis of the phenological response of seabirds, and in particular, the link between climate factors and the reproductive cycle of these birds in extreme latitudes.

A limited amount of time to successfully reproduce

“Arctic seabirds only reproduce during a particular time in Spring, when light and temperature conditions, as well as food availability, are optimal. However, this temporary window with optimal conditions does not last long, and if these animals are not able to adapt, they can fail when trying to reproduce,” comments Francisco Ramírez, the only researcher in Spain to take part in this international study.

Global warming is causing alterations in the breeding season of these seabirds. These try to move their breeding season earlier to adapt -more or less successfully- to this early spring environmental changes. Also, populations of seabirds do not show homogenous patterns when this phenomenon is studied. These seabirds in the north of the Pacific Ocean are the ones to have shown the highest change regarding time in their breeding season, authors note.

Ecology and feeding strategies of each species could also influence in the response of seabirds to this climate challenge. Seabirds that move their breeding the earliest get their food in shallow waters. These are, for instance, the long-tailed jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus), red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris), the black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), the glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus), the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), the Leach’s petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), and the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis).

Changes in the breeding season seem less in species that dive to catch preys, such as the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), the rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata), the tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), the horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata), and the crested auklet (Aethia cristatella).

Surviving the climate crisis

Global warming caused by human activity is affecting organisms in many ways, although many of them are still unknown. However, not all evidence points out to the same direction. Sometimes we find results or evidence that could be contradictory.

“This can only mean there is still a lot to find out about how species respond to the environmental changes that are occurring and the consequences of these responses. Therefore, we have to take these changes, which are taking place in natural ecosystems in general and the arctic ones specifically, very seriously,” notes Francisco Ramírez.

In this context of change, not all living beings can respond in a similar way to the environmental changes caused by global warming. Some species move to higher latitudes or altitudes as the temperature rises, and others change their diet responding to the changes in food availability. There are even some species that have not shown a response, but all these behaviours can influence in the population dynamics of each species and the whole natural ecosystem.

Some of the analysed species in the study -such as red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris), the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), and the Leach’s petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) -are listed as vulnerable species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. “Regarding the Arctic birds, the changes we observe can have severe consequences in populations, especially if we think about the species with less abilities to adapt the environmental changes due global warming,” warns Ramírez.

Long-term study values in ecology

The study is based on the analysis of record and studies on the control of species in the natural environment carried out over the last thirty-five years. The long-term studies and availability of history data -environmental and biological data- are essential to assess the animals’ response to the environmental changes. “We can only infer the consequences of climate change by having a deep knowledge of these responses, and we have to act consequently if we want to preserve biodiversity,” notes Ramírez.

“However, our research system is strictly focused on short-term studies and penalizes those research projects that need data gathering for long periods of time. Therefore, databases such as the ones we used in this international study are only a few, and thus they are of great scientific value,” concludes the researcher.

It is common knowledge that glaciers are melting in most areas across the globe. The speed at which tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes are retreating is particularly alarming, however. In the first detailed investigation of all Peruvian mountain ranges, a research team has ascertained a drastic reduction of almost 30 percent in the area covered by glaciers between 2000 and 2016: here.

Another casualty of climate change will likely be shoreline recreational fishing, according to new research. The study finds some regions of the U.S. may benefit from increasing temperatures, but those benefits will be more than offset by declines in fishing elsewhere: here.

Pressure may be key to fighting climate change with thermoelectric generators: here.

Polluting emissions from Chinese thermal power plants declined significantly between 2014 and 2017, according to research involving UCL. The reductions are important in helping to control China’s national emissions which could lead to an improvement in air quality and considerable health benefits. A team of experts from the UK and China analysed emissions from coal, oil, natural gas and biomass power plants, with a focus on coal-fired power plants as the major contributors to ambient air pollution. The study, published today in Nature Energy, analysed data from 2014, when China introduced the ambitious Ultra-Low Emissions (ULE) Standards Policy for renovating coal-fired power stations to limit air pollutant emissions, to 2017: here.