News Source: 
UW Today
August 1, 2013

The Arctic Ocean has more open water each summer, a trend most scientists predict will continue in coming years. September 2012 set the record for the most open water since satellite observations began.

A University of Washington researcher is co-author on a review paper published this week (Aug. 2) in the journal Science looking at the ecological consequences of sea ice decline.

Led by corresponding author Eric Post, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University, the international team looked at effects on animals ranging from microorganisms to polar bears. As well as obvious changes for organisms that live in or on the ice, there also are trickle-down effects for food webs, animal behavior, species ranges, interbreeding and disease dynamics.

“We often wonder what the sea ice loss impact will be on weather, and probably as important or more is its influence on ecosystems,” said co-author Cecilia Bitz, a UW associate professor of atmospheric sciences.

Bitz’s research uses computer models to predict changes in sea ice. She recently published a study showing that declining sea ice is likely to further threaten ringed seals, which use snow-covered ice floes to build caves for their young.