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    New Arctic Shipping Routes Mean New Passages For Invasive Species Too
    By News Staff | May 28th 2014 09:29 AM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Two new shipping routes have opened in the Arctic: the Northwest Passage through Canada, and the Northern Sea Route, a 3,000-mile stretch along the coasts of Russia and Norway connecting the Barents and Bering seas.

    Overall, it means for the first time in perhaps 2 million years, the north Pacific and north Atlantic oceans are navigable, and that means new opportunities for Arctic natural resources and interoceanic trade with lower environmental impact, but 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.

    As global warming gives ships a new, shorter way to cross between oceans, the risks of new invasions are escalating,
    biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center assert in a commentary published May 28 in Nature Climate Change.
     

    The first commercial voyage through the Northwest Passage—a carrier from British Columbia loaded with coal bound for Finland—occurred in September 2013. Meanwhile, traffic through the Northern Sea Route has been rising rapidly since 2009. The scientists project that at the current rate, it could continue to rise 20 percent every year for the next quarter century, and this does not take into account ships sailing to the Arctic itself.

    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.

    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.


    "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."

    "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."



    Source: Smithsonian


    Comments

    MikeCrow
    I'm thinking the 2 million years is a bit on the long side, Amundsen navigated the NW passage between 1903 and 1906, and the Russian coast looked to either be open or mostly open a number of times in the 20's and 30's.
    Now, I'll accept it's more open now than what the documents from 100 years ago show, but it did look to be navigable.
    And the forecast for 2014 is more summer ice, not less. And did you see all of the ice still on Lake Superior?


    If there wasn't as much exaggeration about warming, they wouldn't get so much push back on the "science".
    Never is a long time.
    MikeCrow
    I guess 2,000,000 years is about 1,994,000 years too many.
    All I can add is I guess they just can't help themselves, idiots.
    Never is a long time.