Science/Health

Climate change effect: Disappearing Arctic sea ice disrupts food chain putting Beluga whales in peril

By Mharia Emmareen / 2017.03.28
Two of the Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas (Pallas, 1776)) at the Georgia Aquarium in January 2006.

Arctic has been the home of a wide diverse of plants and animal species. However, with the drastic change in temperature, inhabitants are in great peril and beluga whales are not exempted.

Based on recent studies, the Arctic sea ice has been melting due to climate change which is made intense by using fossil fuels. The burning of these fuels such as coal adds to the level of carbon dioxide that gets mixed in the atmosphere which is why less ice accumulate. Fewer algae will form which is at the bottom of the food chain eaten by different organisms which are then eaten by the beluga whales to which benthic fishes such as halibut is its primary diet.

According to the research, once the bottom of the food chain (algae) has been eradicated, the rest of the Arctic wildlife will face grave chain reaction. Zooplankton that consumes algae have been receding and moving away from its habitat.

Marine biologists have found out that beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) are dealing with a new global peril. Just like other animals that thrive in the far, cold north, their lives and habitat have been unsettled due to global warming as suggested by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Sams) researcher, Thomas Brown. For several years, he has been analyzing beluga whales, The Guardian reported.

"These creatures are in the frontline of change in the Arctic and it is clear they are having to make considerable changes in behavior to survive, fishing further and further into open water," he says. "We need to find out urgently how significant are these changes."

With fewer Arctic sea ice forming and nearly 1.2 million square kilometers of ice being melted, algae now have a smaller range or none at all to reproduce itself. If the algae disappear, so do beluga whales, as reported by Apex Tribune.

Beluga whales are dubbed as sea canary because of their pitch which is too high. This marine animal is already in the list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as near to endangered species.

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