Hundreds of species have harmoniously inhabited the arctic north for millennia, but rapid climate change and extremely high levels of poaching will dictate the future of these animals ecosystems.
Climate change is changing the ecological balance, resulting in many animals being just years away from extinction. However, that is only one of many factors that have been threatening these species demise. In the North, species are also threatened by over-hunting and industrial activities.
The Arctic Fox has been affected the most by this. They have been hunted for their fur which can change from white to grey depending on the season, making them a high-value target. Another factor is that their main food source of Lemmings have not been very abundant for nearly a decade due to irregular winters in the north. There have been several projects to save the Arctic Fox from extinction such as the Swedish-Finnish-Norwegian Arctic Fox Project, which ran for 5 years. This project and others like it have helped shelter animals like foxes as they try to bring the population back.
Polar bears have been one of the species most affected by climate change, human poaching and food scarcity. Polar bear population numbers are set to decrease by a third in 2050 and the warming climate along with reducing sea ice has been making prey difficult to obtain. The situation is not looking good for them, as now they must travel further distances and use more energy to catch their prey. A study found that for one polar bear to sustain its proper energy level it would require an intake of 12,325 calories a day. Many polar bears are not meeting this requirement. If nothing changes they are expected to go extinct within 40 years.
Bowhead whales have also been affected tremendously. Although being protected from commercial whaling in 1931, their numbers have still been dropping. The noise disturbance from shipping vessels and offshore oil and gas development, injury or death from collisions with vessels, and entanglement in fishing gear, are all leading to one thing: bowhead whale ultimate extinction. Humans must be more careful while exploring and working in their territory.
Given political inaction, continued climate change is inevitable at this point; however, there are things that humans can do for individual species that will help them adapt to the warmer weather and improve their chances of survival. Arctic animal specialists have been in the northern region looking after communities of species and monitoring their health and feeding them food. They have noticed that many of the aquatic animals like seals have been migrating to other areas due to the water heating up. This leaves animals like polar bears and killer whales having less seals to eat. Sadly, there is no clear solution to this at present.
Many organizations are trying their best to help the animals but help is all they can do, but in many cases human intervention has brought back animals from extinction but if a species is to limited to save there is not much humans can do to change mother natures way.
The arctic will be changing rapidly in the next century and the survival of these animals depends on humans being compassionate and brave enough to take political action, and not obliterating the ice caps that these animals live on.
Image source:Wikimedia Commons
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