MEPS - Vol. 468 - Feature article

Adult female and young Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) resting on sea ice during summer in the Chukchi Sea. Photo: Sarah Sonsthagen (U.S. Geological Survey)

Jay CV, Fischbach AS, Kochnev AA


Walrus areas of use in the Chukchi Sea during sparse sea ice cover


Summer sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing at an alarming rate, with little known consequences to ice-associated marine mammals such as the Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens). Jay and colleagues radio-tracked walruses to investigate the distribution of walrus foraging in the Chukchi Sea during sparse sea ice cover in recent years. Walruses arrived earlier and stayed later than in the past, and the lack of sea ice over the continental shelf in September-October caused walruses to use coastal haul-outs and forage in nearshore areas rather than offshore areas as they typically did in the past. These behavioral changes are likely to compromise the seasonal energy budget of walruses, and potentially, their reproductive and juvenile survival rates.


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