Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 181–194 | Cite as

Impacts of changing sea-ice conditions on Arctic marine mammals

  • Kit M. Kovacs
  • Christian Lydersen
  • James E. Overland
  • Sue E. Moore
Arctic Ocean Diversity Synthesis


Arctic sea ice has changed dramatically, especially during the last decade and continued declines in extent and thickness are expected for the decades to come. Some ice-associated marine mammals are already showing distribution shifts, compromised body condition and declines in production/abundance in response to sea-ice declines. In contrast, temperate marine mammal species are showing northward expansions of their ranges, which are likely to cause competitive pressure on some endemic Arctic species, as well as putting them at greater risk of predation, disease and parasite infections. The negative impacts observed to date within Arctic marine mammal populations are expected to continue and perhaps escalate over the coming decade, with continued declines in seasonal coverage of sea ice. This situation presents a significant risk to marine biodiversity among endemic Arctic marine mammals.


Climate change Competition Conservation Extinction threat Habitat deterioration Management 



We thank Bodil Bluhm, Stig Falk-Petersen, Rolf Gradinger, Russ Hopcroft and Paul Wassmann for their invitation to prepare this paper for presentation at Arctic Frontiers 2010. This publication is part of the Census of Marine Life’s Arctic Ocean Diversity project synthesis. The support and initiative of ARCTOS and Arctic Frontiers are gratefully acknowledged. Dr. Ian Stirling kindly reviewed our polar bear coverage, his insights were appreciated. Additionally, the SWIPA (Snow, Water, Ice, and Permafrost in the Arctic) biological impacts team provided significant advances in our thinking regarding the ecosystems changes that will impact on “top trophics”. This work has been financed by the Norwegian Polar Institute and NOAA/Fisheries (USA).


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg, Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kit M. Kovacs
    • 1
  • Christian Lydersen
    • 1
  • James E. Overland
    • 2
  • Sue E. Moore
    • 3
  1. 1.Norwegian Polar InstituteTromsøNorway
  2. 2.NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental LaboratorySeattleUSA
  3. 3.NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service ST7SeattleUSA

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