Scientists have linked Arctic sea ice loss to a deadly virus that could threaten marine mammals in the North Pacific, according to a new study.
Researchers identified phocine distemper virus, or PDV, a pathogen responsible for killing thousands of European harbor seals in the North Atlantic in 2002, in northern sea otters in Alaska in 2004, raising questions about when and how the virus reached them.
The 15-year study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, highlights how the radical reshaping of historic sea ice may have opened pathways for contact between Arctic and sub-Arctic seals that was previously impossible. This allowed for the virus’ introduction into the Northern Pacific Ocean.
“The loss of sea ice is leading marine wildlife to seek and forage in new habitats and removing that physical barrier, allowing for new pathways for them to move,” says corresponding author Tracey Goldstein, associate director of the One Health Institute at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis.
“As animals move and come in contact with other species, they carry opportunities to introduce and transmit new infectious disease, with potentially devastating impacts.”
Researchers sampled marine mammals for phocine distemper virus exposure and infection from 2001 to 2016. Sampled mammals included ice-associated seals, northern fur seals, Steller sea lions, and northern sea otters from Southeast Alaska to Russia along the Aleutian Islands and the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas.
They assessed Arctic ocean sea ice and open water routes from the North Atlantic to North Pacific oceans. Satellite telemetry data helped link animal movement and risk factor data to demonstrate that exposed animals have the potential to carry phocine distemper virus long distances.
The researchers identified widespread infection and exposure to the virus across the North Pacific Ocean beginning in 2003, with a second peak of exposure and infection in 2009. These peaks coincided with reductions in Arctic sea ice extent.
“As sea ice continues its melting trend, the opportunities for this virus and other pathogens to cross between North Atlantic and North Pacific marine mammals may become more common,” says first author Elizabeth VanWormer, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis during the study and currently an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
“This study highlights the need to understand PDV transmission and the potential for outbreaks in sensitive species within this rapidly changing environment.”
Additional coauthors are from the University of Saint Andrews, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center Marine Mammal Center, the University of Glasgow, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Queens University Belfast, Pirbright Institute, and the Alaska Veterinary Pathology.
The Morris Animal Foundation, the NOAA Oceans and Human Health Graduate Traineeship Program, the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Marine Mammal Laboratory, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service funded the work.
Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities
by Peter Plastrik , John Cleveland
The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future. Available On Amazon
by Elizabeth Kolbert
Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Available On Amazon
Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats
by Gwynne Dyer
Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival. Prescient and unflinching, Climate Wars will be one of the most important books of the coming years. Read it and find out what we’re heading for. Available On Amazon
From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.