Melting Sea Ice Opens Arctic Passages for Invasive Species

By George Backwell
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Arctic Navigation: File photo

For the first time in roughly 2 million years, melting Arctic sea ice is connecting the north Pacific and north Atlantic oceans. The newly opened passages leave both coasts and Arctic waters vulnerable to a large wave of invasive species, biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center assert in a commentary published in 'Nature Climate Change' and excerpted here.

Two new shipping routes have opened in the Arctic: the Northwest Passage through Canada, and the Northern Sea Route, a 3000-mile stretch along the coasts of Russia and Norway connecting the Barents and Bering seas. While new opportunities for tapping Arctic natural resources and interoceanic trade are high, commercial ships often inadvertently carry invasive species. Organisms from previous ports can cling to the undersides of their hulls or be pumped in the enormous tanks of ballast water inside their hulls. Now that climate change has given ships a new, shorter way to cross between oceans, the risks of new invasions are escalating.

“Trans-Arctic shipping is a game changer that will play out on a global scale,” said lead author Whitman Miller. “The economic draw of the Arctic is enormous. Whether it’s greater access to the region’s rich natural resource reserves or cheaper and faster inter-ocean commercial trade, Arctic shipping will reshape world markets. If unchecked, these activities will vastly alter the exchange of invasive species, especially across the Arctic, north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans.”

For the past 100-plus years, shipping between oceans passed through the Panama or Suez Canals. Both contain warm, tropical water, likely to kill or severely weaken potential invaders from colder regions. In the Panama Canal, species on the hulls of ships also had to cope with a sharp change in salinity, from marine to completely fresh water. The Arctic passages contain only cold, marine water. As long as species are able to endure cold temperatures, their odds of surviving an Arctic voyage are good. That, combined with the shorter length of the voyages, means many more species are likely to remain alive throughout the journey.

Though the routes pose major risks to the north Atlantic and north Pacific coasts, the Arctic is also becoming an attractive destination. Tourism is growing, and it contains vast stores of natural resources. The Arctic holds an estimated 13 percent of the world’s untapped oil and 30 percent of its natural gas. Greenland’s supply of rare earth metals is estimated to be able to fill 20 to 25 percent of global demand for the near future. Until now the Arctic has been largely isolated from intensive shipping, shoreline development and human-induced invasions, but the scientists said that is likely to change drastically in the decades to come.

“The good news is that the Arctic ecosystem is still relatively intact and has had low exposure to invasions until now,” said coauthor Greg Ruiz. “This novel corridor is only just opening. Now is the time to advance effective management options that prevent a boom in invasions and minimize their ecological, economic and health impacts.”
 
The abstract is at: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n6/full/nclimate2244.html

Maritime Reporter July 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

Green Marine, ACPA Partner to Reduce Environmental Footprint

Green Marine and the Association of Canadian Port Authorities (ACPA) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the goal of jointly expanding efforts

SC Ports’ Earnings, Volumes Surpass Plans

July cargo volumes deliver strong start to new fiscal year SC Ports Authority reported 2014 fiscal year-end operating earnings of $14.3 million, 20.7 percent over the organization's financial plan.

Jacques R. Saadé Visits the CMA CGM Columba

During the CMA CGM Columba call in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 19, Jacques R. Saadé, CMA CGM Group's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, visited the 11,400 TEU ship.

Environmental

Water Monitoring to Continue at Western Gulf Ports

A water monitoring network that helps keep port traffic moving is the responsibility of the Conrad Blucher Institute (CBI) for Surveying and Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Green Marine, ACPA Partner to Reduce Environmental Footprint

Green Marine and the Association of Canadian Port Authorities (ACPA) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the goal of jointly expanding efforts

Update: LOOP Terminal Shutdown

LOOP's Offshore Marine Terminal suspended its crude oil offloading operations on August 13 while investigating an oil sheen discovered along the pipeline. According to the terminal,

Marine Science

Mærsk Putting Valuable Experience to Good Use

The Mærsk Deliverer rig team has initiated seven local acceleration programmes in Angola. The goal is to train and develop local talent to take on increasingly

Markey Equips Research Vessel Sally Ride

Named for the first American woman launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, the Research Vessel Sally Ride was commissioned August 9 at Dakota Creek Industries (Anacortes, Washington).

Admiral Vladimirsky on Round-the-world Voyage

On 18 August, the Admiral Vladimirsky oceanographic research ship of the Baltic Fleet will leave St. Petersburg and then set sail on an unprecedented round-the-world voyage.

Arctic Operations

Russia Sanctions Could Slow Norwegian Arctic Exploration

Western sanctions against Russia may slow down exploration for oil and gas on both the Norwegian and Russian side of the Arctic Barents Sea, lobby group Norwegian Oil & Gas told Reuters on Wednesday.

Russia Conducts High North Geophysical Surveys

For the first time, as part of the Arctic-2014 high-latitude expedition, nuclear icebreakers 'Akademik Fedorov' and 'Yamal' have conducted an entire complex of geophysical research at the North Pole,

Statoil: Gudrun Officially Opened

Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg officially opened the Gudrun platform in the North Sea today, 19 August. This is the first new Statoil-operated platform on

Ballast Water Treatment

BWTS SeaCURE Gains USCG AMS Acceptance

Evoqua Water Technologies LLC says that its SeaCURE Ballast Water Treatment System (BWTS) has been granted AMS Acceptance in all salinities. System highlights

OceanSaver Reports Surge in BWT Orders

OceanSaver said it has received a rush of ballast water treatment (BWT) system orders for large vessels. The Norwegian firm, a BWT specialist developing solutions since 2003,

Ocean Observation

Water Monitoring to Continue at Western Gulf Ports

A water monitoring network that helps keep port traffic moving is the responsibility of the Conrad Blucher Institute (CBI) for Surveying and Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Markey Equips Research Vessel Sally Ride

Named for the first American woman launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, the Research Vessel Sally Ride was commissioned August 9 at Dakota Creek Industries (Anacortes, Washington).

BOEM to Modernize Financial Assurance and Risk Management

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on Risk Management, Financial Assurance, and Loss

 
 
Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Naval Architecture Pipelines Port Authority Ship Electronics Ship Repair Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1484 sec (7 req/sec)