The new Arctic: Amid record heat, ecosystems morph and wildlife struggle

Sharon Guynup – 14 February 2024

Walruses have traversed the Arctic for millennia, gregarious pinnipeds that rest en masse on drifting pack ice, diving to feed on crabs, clams and other seafloor delicacies. Icy platforms also serve as safe birthing and nursery grounds. But as the far north rapidly warms and sea ice disappears, some herds now huddle on overcrowded shorelines, with deadly consequences for young calves: Because more disturbances occur on shore than at sea, calves are regularly trampled during panicked stampedes by the 1-ton-plus adults.

Climate-driven changes are affecting other wildlife across this land of snow and ice. On the Arctic tundra, lemmings now struggle to eat, nest and move during the eight winter months they live beneath the snow, as they endure “weather whiplash,” with ever more severe fluctuations in temperature, snow and rain, says ecologist Dorothee Ehrich, at the Climate Ecological Observatory for Arctic Tundra with Norway’s Arctic University…