Sunday, 1 June 2014

Melting Arctic waters leaves continent vulnerable to invasive species

The melting Arctic sea ice means, for the first time in roughly two million years, the north Pacific and north Atlantic oceans are connected, and both coasts, as well as the continent’s waters, face threats from invasive species.

Biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center warn that ships travelling through the resulting two new shipping routes (the Northwest Passage through Canada, and the Northern Sea Route, a 3000-mile stretch along the coasts of Russia and Norway connecting the Barents and Bering seas), could carry these invasive species and threaten its fragile ecosystem.

For the past 100-plus years, shipping between oceans passed through the Panama or Suez Canals and species from colder climes clinging to the ship’s hull were likely to be weakened or killed by the sudden increase of temperature that the canal provided. They also had to cope with a sharp change in salinity, from marine to completely fresh water.

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