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 email@example.com.
Scott Smith | Newswise Science News
Further reports about: > Arctic Ocean > Conservation Science > Eskimo > Fish and Wildlife Service > Marine science > Native Client > Pacific coral > Sea-Ice > Unique species > Wildlife > Wildlife Conservation > Wildlife Conservation Society > Wildlife Service > cross-cultural collaboration > marine ecosystem > marine ecosystems > marine resources > walrus
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy