Ringed SealLatin name: Pusa Hispida,
Conservsation status: least concern (population is unknown)
Ringed seals are the smallest of all seals and live primarily in the Arctic Ocean. They are able to dive as deep as 300 feet and stay under for up to 45 minutes. They blow bubbles before surfacing to check for Polar Bears, their main predator. The seals use their sharp claws to make breathing holes in the thick ice.
All populations of Ringed Seals are expected to be adversely affected by climate change because of dependence on sea ice and snow dens for breeding, protecting pups, moulting and resting. Early warming causes pups to separate prematurely from their mothers. As sea ice declines, other threats are fisheries by-catch, increased shipping, tourism and development. Seals are vulnerable to disease from heavy concentrations of pollutants that have accumulated in the Arctic food web.
Other animals at risk
Before 1800 there were an estimated 10–20,000 Whooping Cranes in North America. By 1941, because of hunting and habitat destruction, there were fewer than 20. There are now approximately 350–380 in the wild. The wild Whooping Crane population has only one winter habitat—a wildlife refuge on the Gulf Coast in Texas; and one spring breeding habitat—a prairie wetlands in Alberta. Severe storms, sea level rise, drought, industrial development and oil spills threaten these habitats. Another significant threat to young Whooping Cranes is colliding with power lines in their migration corridor.
American pikas occupy talus—rock piles that accumulate at the base of a slope—at high elevations in western mountains. Pikas are thought to be a prime example of the potential effects of climate change because they are sensitive to warm temperatures and rely on insulation provided by snow to survive cold winter temperatures. However, several recent studies indicate that pikas can be resilient to each of these factors. Most pikas in the Sierra Nevada survived the winter of 2014, when there was almost no snowpack. Pikas persist in many hot localities as well, demonstrating their ability to cope with high temperatures.
The Narwhal lives mainly in the Atlantic Arctic. Because of specialized habitat, narrow range and limited diet (Arctic cod and halibut), it is one of the Arctic species most vulnerable to climate change. The Narwhal breeds in bays and fjords, moving offshore during winter to areas of heavy ice pack, breathing through the few cracks. Sudden or extreme temperature change can cause these cracks to freeze shut, trapping the whales. Other threats are illegal hunting, industrial activities, and risks from oil development, exploration and shipping in the Arctic.
In 50 years, the mean temperature of western Antarctica has risen nearly 3 °C—more than any other region—reducing the extent and thickness of winter ice. The Emperor Penguin is dependent on the ice for breeding, raising chicks and moulting. Less sea ice decreases zooplankton (krill) which feed on algae that grow on the underside of the ice. Krill are an important part of the food web for the Emperor and other Antarctic marine species.