Global Warming Alters Arctic Food Chain, Scientists Say, With Unforeseeable Results Carl Zimmer

Summary of the Article: Normally, when one hears global warming and the Arctic Ocean in the same sentence, they immediately think of the polar ice caps melting. But, "Global Warming Alters Arctic Food Chain, Scientists Say, With Unforeseeable Results," manages to discuss how global warming is taking a massive toll on the Arctic Ocean from a different perspective. This article delves into how organisms native to the Arctic are being affected by global warming. Carl Zimmer, the author of this piece explains that the annual production of algae has increased by almost 50 percent between 1997 and 2015. This drastic increase in algal production has the opportunity to have a profound impact on organisms further up the food chain. With ice retreating, algae are able to bloom in greater degrees and much sooner in the year than ever before. The increased productivity of algae is likely to effect the whole food web. Zimmer explains that,"some species may thrive because they can graze on the extra algae. But if the ecosystem comes to life earlier in the year, many species may be left behind." The article ends on an almost eerie note, stating that unless humans can reverse the damage that they have done, the Arctic will be a completely different place in the near future.

"This month, temperatures in the high Arctic have been as much as 36 degrees above average, according to records kept by the Danish Meteorological Institute."

Analysis of the Article: This article is noteworthy because it discusses a topic that is not talked about very often. When having a conversation about climate change and its effect on the Arctic, people mostly speak about melting ice, which almost always leads to a conversation about how cute polar bears are and how they need to be saved. While polar bears are important, and I, in no way, shape or form would like for people to stop caring about them, I believe that there are other issues, such as the one discussed in this piece, that are equally important.

This image clearly displays the decrease in sea ice.

This article manages to discuss the Arctic ecology more broadly, and explain what the increase of algae in the water will do to the organisms that are native to this region. Carl Zimmer very clearly explains the impact that global warming has had on the Arctic in terms of melting ice, and then writes about the impacts of this event. I personally hadn't had much (if any at all) knowledge about this particular result of climate change. In class, we have earned about algal blooms and impacts that these growths have on an ecosystem, but I didn't know that this was occurring in the Arctic Ocean. I certainly hadn't known about how much algal productivity could effect an entire food chain. For these reasons, the topic discussed in this article is very relevant and important to learn about.

"In October, the extent of sea ice was 28.5 percent below average — the lowest for the month since scientists began keeping records in 1979. The area of missing ice is the size of Alaska and Texas put together."

My Big "Takeaway": After reading this article, I have a few "takeaways." Every time I do a ScrAPES project, I feel like I will always talk about how much humans have messed up the Earth. I personally don't spend too much time randomly picking up the Science section of the New York Times, thus I tend to miss out on environmental current events. From this article, I have learned about the increased amounts of algae in the Arctic Ocean and what will happen if this productivity is not brought back to its normal levels. Overall, I learned about a topic that I had had very little knowledge on prior to reading this article.

"'It is probable [this increase in algae] will have an impact on the whole food web,' Dr. Babin said."

Check out the video below for some more information about the Arctic Ocean. This National Geographic clip gives a really good synopsis of human's impact on this body of water.

"If we stay on our current course, pouring more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Arctic will only get warmer, perhaps becoming ice-free in the summer. If algae can find more nitrogen and other nutrients in the ocean, its productivity may continue to rise."

Credits:

Created with images by NASA Goddard Photo and Video - "Ponds on the Ocean" • NASA Goddard Photo and Video - "NASA Finds Thickest Parts of Arctic Ice Cap Melting Faster" • jonnycarstensen - "nature scenic iceberg" • cheryl strahl - "Polar Bear Play Fighting-AK2015"

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