How Is Climate Change Affecting Marine Life in the Arctic?


Rising temperatures are melting the ice that covers the Arctic Ocean, allowing sunlight into waters that have been dark for thousands of years. Previously barren ice-covered regions are being transformed into productive seas. In this article, we explain how computer modeling can be used to predict how this transformation will affect the food web that connects plankton to fish and top predators, like whales and polar bears. Images of starving polar bears have become symbolic of the effects of the warming climate. Melting of the sea-ice is expected to reduce the bears’ ability to hunt for seals. However, at the same time, the food web upon which bears depend is becoming more productive, so it is not completely clear what the eventual outcome will be. Computer models help us to understand these systems and help us make policy decisions about the management of newly available Arctic resources.
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