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6 Reasons to LOVE Arctic Important Marine Areas

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This was originally posted as part of the Vital Arctic Ocean Areas blog series. See all posts here

This summer we were fortunate to share a blog series brought to us by Arctic scientists — experts working to study and understand the habitat, species and ecological changes happening at the top of the world. It’s rare for those of us who live a ways away to see a glimpse of this vibrant, and beautiful place, but our blog series aimed to bring YOU into the Arctic Ocean. We shared scientist stories about how truly special this place is. And how important the Arctic is, not only to the animals and people that thrive there, but to the overall health of our ocean. If you missed reading the blogs, we encourage you to check them out now. Here are just a few of the reasons we think you’ll enjoy reading the series.

1. Sustaining life

Both year-round and seasonal residents of the Arctic Ocean rely on a remarkable burst of productivity driven by sunlight that occurs during the brief summer months. During this short ice-free season, nutrient-rich waters provide fuel and sustenance for an amazing variety of species. This incredible abundance makes the Arctic Ocean critically important to whales, seals, walruses, birds, and fish, and other creatures. Read more…

2. More than meets the eye

Amazing creatures live beneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean! You may not want to dive into the icy waters to explore — but scientists have braved the cold to discover an ecologically diverse abundance of fish and invertebrates. In some of the most important marine areas, millions of microalgae coat the underside of ice floes, and a universe of crabs, snails, brittle stars, sea stars and polar cod live around and amid the sea ice. Read more…

 

 

3. It’s truly for the birds! 

Birds from all over the world flock to the Arctic. Seabirds big and small fly to the Arctic Ocean region to nest, lay their eggs and raise their chicks. Millions of birds take advantage of the richness of the Arctic summer to fill up and refuel before continuing their migratory journeys. It would take too long to list all the birds that use some of the more unique and bird-friendly places in the Arctic, but a few include: Black-legged Kittiwakes, Thick-billed and Common Murres, Horned and Tufted Puffins — King, Common, Steller’s, and Spectacled Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, and Arctic, Yellow-billed and Red-throated Loons. Read more…

4. Abundant wildlife

There is an abundance of wildlife in the Arctic Ocean — including some of the most iconic animals in the world. Polar bears prowl the ice looking for ringed seals. Other Arctic seals include ringed seals and massive bearded seals. Pacific walruses, too, call the Arctic home. They dive from ice floes and use their sensitive whiskers (called vibrissae) to locate mollusks on the ocean floor. A variety of whales swim in much of these waters, including communicative beluga whales and enormous bowhead whales, some of which can live over 200 years. And gray whales undertake an epic migration — up to 12,000 miles round-trip — to spend summers to take advantage of some of the richest areas of Arctic marine habitat. Read more…

5. The importance of durability during times of change

While the entire Arctic Ocean is important, some key areas have persistent sea ice or notable levels of primary productivity that fuel the food chain. Scientists in our blogs are finding that this is often tied to geophysical features in the ocean. Even in the Arctic where temperatures are warming twice as fast as those elsewhere on Earth, the areas that are productive today are likely to be for many years to come. That’s why it’s so important to protect the vital marine areas — because of their durability. Keeping these areas healthy will have enduring benefits for the larger Arctic marine ecosystem. Read more…

6. So much left to discover

Scientists and researchers still have more to learn and explore. We are only beginning to understand how rich and diverse the Arctic Ocean region is and how important this area of the world is to communities who live there, the rest of the U.S., and the planet. We need to continue to study and learn more about this varied and rapidly changing ocean ecosystem as well as learn from the expertise of Alaska Native residents of the Arctic. Only then, will we truly know how to preserve an intact Arctic ecosystem — and what’s at stake if its most valuable habitat is compromised or harmed. Read more…

The Vital Arctic Ocean Areas blog features posts by scientists about important marine areas in the U.S. Arctic identified by science. Based on the Arctic Marine Science Synthesis.

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