NPI seminar: Impacts of reduced sea-ice extent on Arctic marine mammals

Charmain Hamilton

Arctic sea-ice extent is declining rapidly with this region potentially becoming seasonally sea-ice free within the coming decades. Sea-ice declines pose a large threat to Arctic marine mammals as species in this group are heavily dependent on sea ice.

Trophic interactions between Arctic marine mammals will also likely be altered by changing environmental conditions, as different species will be impacted at different rates. Altered trophic interactions can in turn impact multiple other species in the terrestrial and marine Arctic food webs.

I will present some of our latest research on coastal polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and ringed seals (Pusa hispida) in Svalbard. Both species were instrumented with biotelemetry devices before (2002-2004) and after (2010-2013) the large decline in sea-ice conditions in Svalbard occurred in 2006. We investigated how the space use, movement patterns and spatial overlap between these two species were impacted by the environmental changes in this region.

I will also present results from the bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) and ringed seals tagged with GPS Argos CTD tags in Kongsfjorden in 2011-2012. Annual movement patterns, diving behaviour, use of various water masses and spatial overlap between these two species will be presented.