Friday, 28 March 2014

Climate changes put the freeze on elephant seal births

By Pauline Askin


SYDNEY (Reuters) - More ice means fewer elephant seal pups, according to Australian scientists studying breeding colonies on Macquarie Island near Antarctica and atmospheric changes in the region that have affected the feeding grounds.

"When there's more sea ice the population is likely to go down and in years when there's less sea ice the population is likely to go up," John van den Hoff, a marine biologist at the Australian Antarctic Division, told Reuters.

"When there's extra sea ice the seals can't access the continental shelf as readily as when there's either an average or lesser amount of sea ice."

The causes are due to climate variability linked to a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, not climate change, said van den Hoff, a lead researcher on a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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