Animals and The Melting Arctic Ice Cap

The arguments for global warming can sound a bit vacuous when discussing temperature changes of only one degree. The impact of the melting Arctic ice cap on animals is much more tangible.

There is little dispute that the Arctic ice cap is melting. Since 1979, it has definitively shrunk by 20 percent. The issue amongst most people debating global warming is whether this is because of global warming or just a natural cycle of the planet.

From a common sense point of view, it is difficult to imagine global warming is having no impact on the ice caps. The rising temperature of the planet would seem to be a common sense cause of the melting ice. Alas, common sense rarely seems to be used in debates these days.

As the cap melts, the impact on animals in the area is readily apparent. The primary problem is the reduction of habitat. Polar bears are the most obvious animals suffering from this situation. The habitat of the polar bears is the ice flow areas around the edges of the caps. As the caps melt, the flows are disappearing and pulling back to the extent that there is no ice on the shores. The extent of the melting is such that a Russian ship was able to reach the North Pole in 2005 without the use of an ice breaker. This lost habitat is pushing the polar bears to the edge of extinction. Various estimates put the total population at 20,000 and dropping.

There are, however, positive developments for some species. Recent empirical evidence shows the various seal populations of the Arctic are exhibiting growing population numbers. The exact reason is unclear, but they are appearing more and more in southern regions of the cap, which leads to the conclusion that their habitat is actually expanding.

The receding caps are also opening up extensive new habitats for fish. The melting ice is full of nutrients and fish migration to the new opening seas is astounding. Pink salmon, in particular is being seen spawning in rivers far to the north of their usual spawning grounds.

In general, the impact of the melting Arctic ice caps is a mixed situation. The polar bears certainly don’t see anything to be happy about.