Worrying wave of animal disappearances in Alaska

Sea otters, humpback whales, polar bears… many animals mysteriously disappear in Alaska. The veterinarian Kathy Burek goes there to understand the causes of these deaths in very important series for the man.

Kathy Burek is the veterinarian who studies with her team the causes of serial deaths affecting different animal species in Alaska. Her job is to find the causes, but also identify new pathogens released in what she calls  » the vast thaw What does global warming represent?

As she explains in the magazine Outside Online, finding the causes of these disappearances is of paramount importance. Firstly because seeing an animal species disappear is not pleasant, but above all because it upsets the global balance of ecosystems. In addition, humans are also directly concerned, 75% of the infections that affect them come from animals. Thus, as Chrisopher Solomon, the author of the article suggests, the fate of these species may also be that of man: Sea lions dive into the same water in which humans live, play and work. They eat the same seafood as us « .

What’s more, as Mike Brubaker, director of health and environment at Alaska Native Tribal Health, explains, these disappearing animals make up about 80 percent of the diet of Alaskans. The impact on humans here is direct and immediate.

The causes of these waves of disappearance in these animals remain unclear for the veterinarian. For example, in 2015, 304 sea lions died in Kachemak Bay, five times the usual average. Kathy Burek then noted that several viruses usually found on American territory, at much lower latitudes, have developed in the Far North. But understanding how these viruses appeared in the North is difficult, especially since the means are lacking.  » Many studies focus on what is happening to the tropics due to global warming or what will happen to temperate climates. Far fewer focus on what will happen – in fact, what is already happening – in the higher latitudes, and to those who live there. « .

Global warming is of course at the heart of the problem, with the past two years having been the hottest on record. For Peter Boreng, a member of the Alaska Fish Center Science, the lack of ice prevents animals from developing enough fur to protect them from infections. They therefore spread much more easily.

Appearance of domoic acid causing food poisoning and from algae present in the Arctic, appearance of five new species of ticks in the same regions are just as many new problems affecting species in the Far North and if scientists have no doubt about the main cause of all this, proving it is another challenge.  » It seems hard to believe that many of these changes are not due to what is happening to the environment. The problem is to prove it « .

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