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Giving Compass' Take:
• According to a new study, scientists have linked Arctic sea ice loss to a deadly virus that could threaten marine mammals in the North Pacific.
• How can funders help to identify animals likely to be impacted by sea-level rise and support their conservation?
• Here's how funders are fighting animal extinction from all angles.
Researchers identified phocine distemper virus, or PDV, a pathogen responsible for killing thousands of European harbor seals in the North Atlantic in 2002, in northern sea otters in Alaska in 2004, raising questions about when and how the virus reached them.
The 15-year study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, highlights how the radical reshaping of historic sea ice may have opened pathways for contact between Arctic and sub-Arctic seals that was previously impossible. This allowed for the virus’ introduction into the Northern Pacific Ocean.
“The loss of sea ice is leading marine wildlife to seek and forage in new habitats and removing that physical barrier, allowing for new pathways for them to move,” says corresponding author Tracey Goldstein, associate director of the One Health Institute at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis.
“As animals move and come in contact with other species, they carry opportunities to introduce and transmit new infectious disease, with potentially devastating impacts.”
Researchers sampled marine mammals for phocine distemper virus exposure and infection from 2001 to 2016. Sampled mammals included ice-associated seals, northern fur seals, Steller sea lions, and northern sea otters from Southeast Alaska to Russia along the Aleutian Islands and the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas.
Read the full article about the effects of Arctic sea ice loss by Kat Kerlin at Futurity.