Friday, December 3, 2010

Alaska acknowledges climate change effects

Dan Joling in the Anchorage Daily Press via AP: Alaska's fish and wildlife managers have released a state plan anticipating effects on Arctic bodies of waters, fishing industries and wildlife resources brought on by climate change. The state is suing to overturn the federal listing of polar bears as a threatened species because of declining sea ice habitat, but the 19-page report released this week begins by acknowledging that scientific and traditional evidence increasingly shows climate changing at unprecedented rates throughout the Arctic.

"We have to take a look at what could possibly occur," said Doug Vincent-Lang, endangered species coordinator for the Department of Fish and Game. The report, called "Climate Change Strategy," noted warming temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, altered stream flows, loss of sea ice, increased wildfire patterns, thawing permafrost and coastal erosion.

Warming and precipitation changes were expected to affect freshwater quantity and quality throughout Alaska and likely will affect wetlands, rivers and lakes, especially shallow lakes maintained by permafrost, the report said.

The report anticipated that access by anglers to water bodies may change, as could subsistence opportunities. Distribution of fish may be altered, with a shift to species tolerant of warmer waters, it said. Changes in fire patterns will hurt some terrestrial species and help others, the report said. For example, moose could benefit in some areas that experience more fires, whereas woodpeckers or other species dependent on old-growth forest could suffer. Distribution of seal species could change as a result of altered sea ice conditions, the report said. Ocean acidification has the potential to alter the marine food web, affecting commercially targeted fish.

The report is an outgrowth of an effort launched by former Gov. Sarah Palin, who formed a climate change task force to prepare a climate change strategy for Alaska….

Fur Seal, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, shot by Vernon Byrd of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

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