The world is facing a climate crisis and all living creatures are impacted. Seals are not exempt, and global warming has the potential to have serious ramifications for these sea creatures. In this article, we will explore how global warming affects seals and the wider implications for the ecosystem.
The most obvious affect of global warming on seals is through warmer ocean temperatures. Studies have found a clear correlation between increased ocean temperatures and lower numbers of seals. In 2013, warmer temperatures caused declines in seal pup survival rates up to 66%. Warmer temperatures also impact the availability of prey, with some species moving away to colder waters. This means seals must either find their food elsewhere or risk death by starvation.
Unfortunately, the decline in seal numbers has a far-reaching effect. Seals provide an important ecological role in controlling the number of fish in the ocean, thus keeping the ecosystem balanced. Species such as cod have seen a decline in their population due to the lack of seals to eat them. Moreover, the decrease in cod population has an adverse effect on the larger marine predators such as whales and sharks who rely on this population for sustenance.
Another impact of global warming is the increase in sea levels. This has caused havoc for seals as well, with shoreline habitats where they often live becoming more vulnerable to storm surges and flooding. Coastal erosion has also been linked to the melting of ice sheets and glaciers, reducing the amount of shallow water areas that seals need to feed in. Besides, with global warming, ocean acidification is becoming more and more fact. This means that seals may have difficulty finding food sources due to decline in shellfish. As ocean acidification progresses, more and more creatures may find themselves unable to survive in the increasingly hostile environment.
Finally, as a result of global warming, seal numbers have declined significantly in recent decades. A 2018 study published in Science shows that since the start of the 21st century, the population of some seal species such as NZ fur seals have declined by 28%. This could lead to them becoming endangered, a devastating outcome that would impact the wider web of ocean life.
In conclusion, as global warming progresses, seals become increasingly vulnerable to its effects. Warmer ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and ocean acidification have had a considerable impact on their population in recent years, with the decline of cod caused by the lack of seals having knock-on effects on species further up the food chain. We must act now to limit the effects of climate change or risk devastating outcomes for the ocean and its inhabitants. We must urge our governments to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and switch to renewable energy sources, while increasing research and funding into ways to mitigate the damage already done to the environment. If we don’t take action now, it may be too late for many of our ocean species, including seals.