Citizens of the world, keep a lookout: an entire population of 17,000 Pacific Grey Whales is reported to have 'gone missing'. Earthwatch informs us that: ""We've just come off a second summer in Canada in which we've had next to no whales show up," said Megill, principal investigator of Earthwatch-supported research on grey whales in both British Columbia and Baja California. "Not only in our little area, but apparently throughout the traditional feeding areas from Washington on up north. We have no idea where the whales all went this year." They also tell us that "Grey whales were the first great whales to be removed from the endangered species list, but their future is by no means certain..." As for causation, Earthwatch gives us a hint
: "We know that the Bering Sea has taken a beating over the last ten years, and that [plankton] productivity has plummeted there, forcing the whales into new habitat. A new blow to the productivity in these marginal habitats could hurt badly." More below the fold.This could be just a whimisical change of an entire population's behavior --- or not. A drastic fall-off of plankton productivity in the Bering Sea, followed by disappearing Grey Whales, could be an early indicator of marine ecosystem collapse; but, driven by what? It would be easy to say 'Climate Change' might be to blame for the observed shifts. However, such a hypothesis should include a description of causal mechanisms...unless we are willing to sound like the 'little boy crying wolf' of Aesop's fables.
There is a mechanism, indirectly tied to Climate Change issues, which could be used to explain marine productivity losses in the Arctic region: increased marine dissolution of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is a topic we have posted on extensively on TreeHugger: most recently, here. Look here for our story on restoration of marine ecosystems and climate (a year back). Since then, we posted on a similar topic here. Also, see related post on Planetary Engineering here.
==== Important Update ====
The German Advisory Council On Global Change website has made available for download, copies of the report titled "The Future Oceans – Warming Up, Rising High, Turning Sour," as presented yesterday by Professor Stefan Rahmstorf and 8 other scientists at the U.N. conference on climate change in Kenya. The turning sour chapter is direct linked here.
Note that MSNBC has recently given this some coverage.
Thanks to Russ George of Planktos for the tip.
Photo credit: Earthwatch