Thursday, November 04, 2004

I Hope Bush Can Swim Part VIII

More evidence that global warming is coming fast:
Krill — the heart of the rich Antarctic food chain that nourishes whales, seals and penguins — have declined by more than 80% in the last 25 years in key ocean regions, according to a new study that links the loss to warming temperatures.

The new research, published in today's issue of the journal Nature, is the first comprehensive attempt to estimate numbers of the small, shrimp-like creatures that once were so abundant that their swarms colored vast patches of the southern oceans blood red.
 
Now, krill have largely been replaced by salp, clear, gelatinous invertebrates that provide so little nutrition to predators that they are considered ecological dead-ends, said Angus Atkinson, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey who led the study.

Such a steep decline in krill could decimate the region's abundant wildlife, ecologists said.

The finding may signal that a shift is underway in one of the world's most productive and pristine ecosystems.

"We're just holding our breath to see what the consequences are," said William Fraser, an Antarctic researcher who was not involved in the current study.

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