The Arctic Is Literally On the Move

Photo: Dean Biggins, US Fish and Wildlife Service

A new study published last week in the journal Science, in which scientists took an extensive look at Arctic wildlife, found that animals are on the move — dramatically changing where and when they breed, migrate and forage.  The CBC reported that “There’s changes everywhere you look — everything is changing,” said Gil Bohrer, the corresponding author of the new study.   The authors compiled and analyzed data on changes to “the movements of 86 species from golden eagles to caribou to bowhead whales across the Arctic over three decades, combining the work of more than 100 universities, government agencies and conservation groups in 17 countries around the world.”

Why This Matters:  The dramatic changes in the Arctic will have very significant impacts on the people who live and work there — they will need to adapt and adjust everything from the way and when they are able to conduct traditional subsistence hunts to the areas we conserve in order to provide necessary habitat for endangered species to the way they use the land, build buildings, and even store food.  Indigenous Alaskans have been sounding the alarm bell for many years, given the huge changes it may be hard for them to continue the way of life they have practiced for centuries.  Yet another reason why conserving 30% of the planet by 2030 is so important.

Three Changes

The international team of scientists made three new discoveries when they took a closer look at the data, according to Karina Shah for New Scientist.  

Data, Data, Data

The scientists involved in the study created an archive of data on all the animals’ movements that they gathered by painstakingly attaching sensors on the animals.  Allicia Kelly, a wildlife biologist for the government of Canada told the CBC “It’s really intense to capture and collar animals, especially for the animals, so this data that we collect is hard-won. It’s valuable, and we have a responsibility to squeeze as much as we can out of it at all scales.”  And with that data, the scientists may be able to determine where populations might move in the future, which could help wildlife managers with longer-term conservation and land use planning.


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