Home South pole ice In a small arctic town, food is getting harder and harder to find

In a small arctic town, food is getting harder and harder to find



It is easy to think that sea ice would impact only the ocean, but there are many exchanges of energy between terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Seabirds, for example, nest on an island, feed in the water, then return to dry land, where their guano fertilizes the plants. The tundra, as an area of ​​low productivity, depends on energy inputs from the marine environment. This means that when the dynamics of sea ice change, not only marine food resources but also land resources change. And because people depend on the earth’s resources, whether it is by collecting eggs or eating caribou, what happens to the pack ice also has an impact on the human population. Everything is interconnected.

However, the specifics of climate impacts on this system are difficult to predict without further study. “Right now, it’s pretty hard to predict based on all of these complex relationships that have just been described right now,” she said.

A key species that is affected by climate change in the tundra is the lemming. Lemmings are small rodents that live, during the winter, under the snowpack, where it is warm enough to survive and reproduce. The snowpack, in addition to isolating their food, also protects them from predators.

Climate change upsets this delicate balance. As the melt and freeze cycles change, the snowpack on which lemmings depend becomes less predictable. In rain on snow, water seeps through the snow and freezes the vegetation below, making the food supply of the lemmings inaccessible. Many arctic predators eat or choose their breeding grounds based on the abundance of lemmings, and these same predators also eat birds and bird eggs. In Igloolik, when there are more lemmings, Marie-Andrée observed that arctic foxes and avian predators (such as the long-tailed jaeger, parasitic jaegers, gulls, crows, snowy owls and other species birds of prey) are more abundant. When climate change affects the lemming, it indirectly affects other species in ways that are not yet fully understood.

Marie-Andrée is more energized by climate solutions that take into account the needs and interests of the different groups concerned. Snow geese, which migrate to the Arctic from the United States and Canada to breed, have grown exponentially over the past four decades due to an increase in the amount of farmland they forage for. during the winter and along their migratory path. “They have increased to a level where they are detrimental to arctic ecosystems. When they come here to reproduce, they overlook the vegetation, ”explains Marie-Andrée. This destroys the habitat and forces predators to eat other birds at higher levels.

One approach to this problem is to implement snow goose harvesting programs, not only by spring hunting in the south, but also by encouraging egg collection and adult harvesting in the north on their own. breeding ground.

“If we can work to support harvest programs that are good for conservation issues at the same time, I think that’s really good,” she said.

Sasquatch observations

The vast majority of the Canadian population – two in three people – live within 100 kilometers of the US border. In Nunavut, a territory of just under 40,000 people, anyone living south of the Arctic Circle is considered a “southerner”. I met one of these southerners, Hunter McClain, on the street in Montreal.

Hunter comes from a small town in northern British Columbia near the Hudson Bay Glacier. The glacier, which was once visible on the mountain, has receded to the point of becoming almost invisible in summer and spring. “The people who live in the countryside are quite in tune with the seasons and we have noticed changes in the wildlife,” she told me. “The wildlife has gone a bit crazy. “

One year, the bears did not hibernate because they could not find enough food. “All the juvenile winter bears were running around the city in search of food. You could see them losing their hair and they looked so skinny, ”Hunter said. “I’ve never seen a really skinny bear before, but when you see a skinny bear walking around and getting up, you really realize it’s Sasquatch.” The bears on their hind legs looked like the legendary monster. Hunter was terrified and equally “strangled by the people who live in this area and who are climate change deniers.” For her, the link with climate change was indisputable.

Adapted from 1001 voices on climate change, by Devi Lockwood. Copyright © 2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Tiller Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. It helps support our journalism. Learn more.

More great WIRED stories