Climate change is affecting a wide range of global systems, with polar ecosystems experiencing the most rapid change. Although climate impacts affect lower-trophic-level and short-lived species most directly, it is less clear how long-lived and mobile species will respond to rapid polar warming because they may have the short-term ability to accommodate ecological disruptions while adapting to new conditions. We found that the population dynamics of an iconic and highly mobile polar-associated species are tightly coupled to Arctic prey availability and access to feeding areas. When low prey biomass coincided with high ice cover, gray whales experienced major mortality events, each reducing the population by 15 to 25%. This suggests that even mobile, long-lived species are sensitive to dynamic and changing conditions as the Arctic warms.
Stewart, J.D., T.W. Joyce, J.W. Durban, J. Calambokidis, D. Fauquier, H. Fearnbach, J.M. Grebmeier, M. Lynn, M. Manizza, W.L. Perryman, M.T. Tinker, and D.W. Weller. 2023. Boom-Bust Cycles in Gray Whales Associated with Dynamic and Changing Arctic Conditions. Science 382(6667): 207-211. doi: 10.1126/science.adi1847Download PDF
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