Arctic snowfall accumulation plays a critical role in ringed seal breeding, but may be at risk due to climate change, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. Sea ice, which is disappearing at an alarming rate, provides a crucial platform for the deep snow seals need to reproduce.
Ringed seals (Phoca hispida) require snow depths of at least 20 centimeters (8 inches): deep enough to form drifts that seals use as birth chambers. Ringed seals rear their young in April, which also makes the timing of adequate snow depths critical.
“Depending on how fast greenhouse gases increase this century, the area of Arctic sea ice with at least 20 centimeters of snow in April could decrease by nearly 70 percent,” says co-author Cecilia Bitz, associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington…
(read more: MongaBay) (photos: Ringed Seal pups, NOAA)