Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Experts Meet to Discuss Future for Pacific Walruses as Sea-Ice Loss Forces Species Onto Land

04.04.2012
Conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Native groups, scientists, and agency staff from both the Russian Federation and United States met to address the need for effective responses to climate-driven increases in the numbers of Pacific walrus using land-based “haul-outs” during summer and fall months.

An alarming trend for the Pacific walrus

Coastal haul-outs —aggregations of walruses on land— numbering in the tens of thousands were previously unknown on the northwest coast of Alaska. Since 2007, there have been two years where walrus hauled out in the thousands, and in both 2010 and 2011 they hauled out in the tens of thousands.

The haul-outs are a result of warming temperatures that have caused sea-ice habitat to retreat farther into the Arctic Basin to areas over deeper water. This creates a difficult situation for females and their calves that have historically stayed with the ice to rest, feed, and float to new feeding areas. Walruses cannot swim to the ocean bottom to feed from ice over deeper water. In shallower water, walruses can feed but there is no ice on which to rest, which they must do every few days. Consequently, female walruses and their calves are increasingly forced to swim to land to rest.

On land, walrus face greater risks—including exhausting their food supply near the haul-out location. In addition, the calves are prone to injury and mortality from being crushed by larger walruses in stampedes caused by disturbances as seemingly insignificant as rocks falling off a cliff or seabirds taking off in a flock. Other disturbances include village dogs harassing the herd, or industrial activities – particularly those involving planes and helicopters.

Industrial disturbances are expected to markedly increase over the coming years with the planned offshore developments in the Chukchi Sea. Of most concern, hauled-out walruses on some Russian beaches can number as high as 100,000, which likely represents about a half of the entire walrus population. Under such conditions, the threats from localized accidents such as oil spills are of great concern.

“To protect the world’s walruses, it is critical that we move quickly in assessing how to respond to this recent phenomenon,” said Dr. Martin Robards, Director of the WCS Berengia Program. “This means planning with our partners both at home and abroad, gathering and sharing consistent data, and understanding the science behind these events. Armed with this knowledge, we can make timely recommendations to wildlife managers and industry that provide the best chance for walruses to safely adapt to their new environment.”

An international response

Coming together to develop protocols and plan effective responses to walrus haul-outs, experts and representatives met in Anchorage for a walrus haul-out “workshop” from March 19 through March 22. Included among the attendees were representatives from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Russian Academy of Sciences, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Eskimo Walrus Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the All-Russian Institute for Nature, Marine Mammal Council, Association of Traditional Marine Hunters, ChukotTINRO, Native Villages of Point Lay and Savoonga, UMPKY Patrol and others.

The experts discussed challenges, including how to count and monitor walruses when there are tens of thousands of animals packed onto a single beach; how to monitor and respond when walruses begin using new coastal areas – particularly those close to development activities or villages; and effective protocols to understand disturbance, disease outbreaks and mortality among the herds.

By understanding haul-out use, population demographics, disturbance factors, and sources of mortality, scientists and indigenous partners can better inform land and resource management decisions, impact assessments, mitigation strategies for development projects and tourism, and contingency plans for disaster response.

“Efforts that are coordinated and cooperative are essential to better understand and protect wide-ranging animals, like walruses.” said Howard Rosenbaum, Director of the WCS Ocean Giants Program. “The results of this workshop will help us design and implement the most effective program to address the issues that currently threaten, and will potentially impact walrus populations in this expansive region in the coming years.”

Along with conducting its own research in the Arctic, WCS has actively supported research at several sites along the Chukotka Coast through a Russian Federation partner, ChukotTINRO. WCS is also actively engaged with indigenous groups on both sides of Bering Strait who continue developing their own stewardship activities. For example, the Eskimo Walrus Commission recently passed a resolution to limit disturbance at coastal haul-outs.

The Native Village of Point Lay received the "Outstanding Partner" Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Region for their efforts to protect walruses on land; and the community of Vankarem on the north coast of Chukotka has worked to mitigate disturbance from the flights that service their community.

WCS Director of Marine Conservation Dr. Caleb McClennen said, “Transboundary and cross-cultural collaboration for the conservation of our oceans is an imperative. As marine ecosystems and wildlife adapt to the changing global climate irrespective of political boundaries, continued innovation by scientists, conservationists and people dependent on marine resources is critical to ensure the long-term productivity and biodiversity of the oceans. The need for international and cross-cultural collaboration on all levels is nowhere more critical than the changing Arctic.”

For further information on this story, or to talk with Dr. Martin Robards, please contact Scott Smith at 718-220-3698 or email ssmith@wcs.org.

Scott Smith | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.wcs.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>