Subject: Food chain and Polar Bears (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Sat, 30 Aug 1997 07:38:20 -0400 (EDT)

I'm forwarding this for those interested in Arctic marine mammals.
Gail Osherenko
Institute of Arctic Studies Dartmouth College

From: "the greenbase" <greenbas@gb.greenpeace.org>
Subject: Polar Bears' Ice Habitat Threatened by Global Warming

POLAR BEARS' ICE HABITAT THREATENED  BY GLOBAL WARMING

BEAUFORT SEA, Alaska, August 26, 1997 -- Shrinking sea ice in
the Arctic due to rising temperatures will cause reductions in
ice algae crucial to the entire Arctic food chain: from fish to
seals and polar bears, scientists have told a Greenpeace
expedition.

The Western  Arctic is one of the fastest warming regions in the
world, warming at a rate of  0.75 degrees C per decade for the
past three decades, several times the average global rate.
Norwegian studies have found the  area of the Arctic Ocean
covered by sea ice has declined 5.5 per cent since 1978. The
Arctic is seen as an early indicator of the impacts of global
climate change, caused primarily by the burning of oil, coal and
gas.

Dr. Vera Alexander of the Fisheries and Ocean Science Department
at the University of Alaska, an expert on ice-edge ecology, has
been observing dramatic changes in temperature and ice-edge
extent for the past 20 years. Alexander stated that the
continued decline of the sea ice will affect the production of
algae, which live beneath the ice, and form the very base of the
arctic food chain. "Without the ice algae", Alexander noted,
"there would be no possibility of a food chain as we know it".
The resulting impacts would ripple up the food web affecting
fish, seals, whales and polar bears.

World renowned polar bear biologist Jack Lentfer (retired,
formerly with the Marine Mammal Commission and US Fish and
Wildlife Service) also expressed concerns about the impacts of
global warming. Noting that bears give birth in snow dens,
Lentfer stated that rising temperatures and earlier spring melts
could expose bear cubs too early in their development to the
harsh arctic environment.

Amidst the increasing signs of human-induced climate change, the
oil industry in the Alaskan Arctic is rapidly expanding towards
the Russian and Canadian borders, seeking to develop and open up
several major new oil fields.

"We can't afford to burn the oil we have already found," said
Steve Sawyer, Greenpeace Arctic Expedition leader. "Burning more
than about one quarter of the world's existing reserves of oil,
coal and gas risks causing catastrophic climate change. It's
completely irresponsible to spend billions exploring for more."

Lentfer has also predicted serious direct impacts for polar
bears resulting from Arco's off-shore oil development in the
area of Camden Bay, off the coast of the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge. Lentfer told Greenpeace the area has the
highest number of polar bear dens in Alaska. ARCO Oil plans
exploratory drilling there in November, 1997.

In December nations of the world will meet in  Kyoto, Japan to
agree on carbon dioxide emission limitations and  reductions.
Greenpeace is calling for an end to all new oil  exploration as
a first step in the necessary phase out of fossil  fuels.


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