Ecosystems & Species

WWF Climate Blog Has Moved to New Location

The WWF climate blog now is located at a different Web address: worldwildlife.org/blogs/wwf-climate-blog.  All posts since May 2013 are at that location, while older posts will remain archived on this site.  The new site will have a single RSS feed at worldwildlife.org/blogs/wwf-climate-blog.rss.

U.S. Unveils Arctic Strategy while Announcing that Atmospheric Concentrations of Carbon Dioxide Have Surpassed Historic Level

The White House on Friday (10 May 2013) released a National Strategy for the Arctic Region, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that daily average atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) had on 9 May surpassed for the first time on record 400.00 parts per million (ppm) at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The rise in CO2 concentrations, largely driven by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, is rapidly warming the Arctic.  The strategy acknowledges that “the current warming trend is unlike anything previously recorded” and that “there may be potentially profound environmental consequences of continued ocean warming and Arctic ice melt.” The document recognizes the Administration’s “global objective of combating the climatic changes that are driving these environmental conditions.” But the strategy also invokes U.S. security interests to argue that that “[c]ontinuing to responsibly develop Arctic oil and gas resources aligns with the United States `all of the above’ approach to developing new domestic energy sources.” In the absence of a U.S. low-carbon development strategy, is not clear how the U.S. ultimately will reconcile expanded fossil fuel production in the region with its commitment to combat climate change.

Study Predicts Dramatic Decline in Plants and Animals Unless Greenhouse Gas Emissions are Sharply Reduced

An international team of researchers reported today (Sunday 12 May 2013) in the journal Nature Climate Change, that the climate disruption from rapidly rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could result in a dramatic decline in more than one half of the world’s common plants and one third of the animals by the end of the century.  “Our research predicts that climate change will greatly reduce the diversity of even very common species found in most parts of the world,” said Dr Rachel Warren, leader of the study from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. “This loss of global-scale biodiversity would significantly impoverish the biosphere and the ecosystem services it provides.”  She said the loss could be prevented with “swift action to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases.”

Scientists Release Findings of Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment, Warn of Emerging Impacts on Vital Commercial Fisheries

An international group of scientists on Monday (6 May 2013) released the findings of their Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment.  The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), which commissioned the research, said in a press release that the Arctic Ocean "is rapidly accumulating carbon dioxide (CO2) leading to increased ocean acidification...This ongoing change impacts Arctic marine ecosystems already affected by rising temperatures and melting sea ice."   AMAP warns that "Arctic Ocean acidification has the potential to affect both commercial fisheries that are important to northern economies, and marine resources that are used by Arctic indigenous people." 

With Rapid Warming in Northern Latitudes, Massive Shift is Underway in Growing Seasons and Vegetation

An international team of researchers has found that rapid warming in northern latitudes has resulted in a decline in temperature seasonality --  the difference between summer and winter temperatures -- which in turn has shifted growing seasons in the region.  "Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982," says NASA in a press release today (10 March 2013).  "This landscape resembles what was found 250 to 430 miles (400 to 700 kilometers) to the south in 1982,"  the agency explains.  "It's like Winnipeg, Manitoba, moving to Minneapolis-Saint Paul in only 30 years," said co-author Compton Tucker of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.  "The global implications of these large shifts in a region covering a fifth of our planet cannot be understated," says Martin Sommerkorn Head of Conservation for WWF's Global Arctic Programme.

Tracking Pacific Walrus: Expedition to the Shrinking Chukchi Sea Ice (video)

This twelve minute video from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) starts with the biologists describing some of the many endearing qualities of walruses,  explaining how important sea ice is to the animals and why the decline of that ice is so disruptive and threatening -- not just to the walruses but for the people of the region.  The second half of the video shows how USGS biologists use satellite radio tags to track the movement and behavior of the walruses. "The information identifies areas of special importance to walruses during sparse summer sea ice and as human presence increases in the region from oil drilling and activities such as shipping and tourism now possible with less ice," says the USGS. In addition to the video, we provide a transcript.

13th National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment: Disasters and Environment -- Science, Preparedness, and Resilience

Event Date: 
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 (All day) - Thursday, January 17, 2013 (All day)
Event Location: 
Washington, DC

"On January 15-17, 2013, join over 1,200 leaders from the emergency response, scientific, policy, conservation, and business communities, as well as federal and local government officials, to address themes such as cascading disasters, the intersection of the built and natural environments, disasters as mechanisms of ecosystem change, rethinking recovery and expanding the vision of mitigation, human behavior and its consequences and "No Regrets" resilience."

With Inadequate Sea Ice North of Alaska, Walruses Haul-Out Along Russian Coast

We reported last week (26 September 2012), that sea ice in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska had declined to the point where the National Ice Center had characterized an area preferred by walruses (Hanna Shoal) as open water. Without the sea ice they needed to rest on, walruses were headed ashore in search of a suitable area of coastal land where they could "haul out." We and others expected large numbers of walruses to haul out in the area of Point Lay, Alaska, where they have hauled out in recent years. But most of the walruses instead opted to continue swimming far to the West, to haul out in the vicinity of Russia's Cape Serdtse-Kamen -- joining other walruses already hauled out there. Though we cannot yet confirm that large numbers of walruses are hauling out at the remote cape, that certainly was the case last year. By mid-October 2011, an estimated (and astounding) 100,000 walruses from both the U.S. and Russian sides of the Chukchi, had hauled out there.

Make Tracks for Walruses: Second Annual WCS Run for the Wild

Event Date: 
Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 8:00am
Event Location: 
New York City

Sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society at the New York Aquarium at Coney Island to support its work to save walruses.  Check-in and registration opens at 7:00 a.m. Runners start at 8:00 a.m. and the Family Fun Run/Walk starts at 8:45 a.m.  See registration and other information at the Run for the Wild Web site.

In Alaska's Chukchi Sea: Shell Resumes Offshore Drilling as Nearby Walruses are Forced Onshore

The story of this year's Arctic sea ice decline did not end on 16 September when the sea ice reached its official minimum extent for the Arctic overall. The decline has continued in the Chukchi Sea -- with momentous consequences. While the National Ice Center indicated that a large "marginal ice zone" was present north of Alaska on 16 September, that zone continued to decline and on 24 September the marginal ice zone had been entirely replaced by open water.

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