Effects of climate change on Arctic marine mammal health. Academic Article uri icon


  • The lack of integrated long-term data on health, diseases, and toxicant effects in Arctic marine mammals severely limits our ability to predict the effects of climate change on marine mammal health. The overall health of an individual animal is the result of complex interactions among immune status, body condition, pathogens and their pathogenicity, toxicant exposure, and the various environmental conditions that interact with these factors. Climate change could affect these interactions in several ways. There may be direct effects of loss of the sea ice habitat, elevations of water and air temperature, and increased occurrence of severe weather. Some of the indirect effects of climate change on animal health will likely include alterations in pathogen transmission due to a variety of factors, effects on body condition due to shifts in the prey base/food web, changes in toxicant exposures, and factors associated with increased human habitation in the Arctic (e.g., chemical and pathogen pollution in the runoff due to human and domestic-animal wastes and chemicals and increased ship traffic with the attendant increased risks of ship strike, oil spills, ballast pollution, and possibly acoustic injury). The extent to which climate change will impact marine mammal health will also vary among species, with some species more sensitive to these factors than others. Baseline data on marine mammal health parameters along with matched data on the population and climate change trends are needed to document these changes.

published proceedings

  • Ecol Appl

altmetric score

  • 4

author list (cited authors)

  • Burek, K. A., Gulland, F., & O'Hara, T. M.

citation count

  • 165

complete list of authors

  • Burek, Kathy A||Gulland, Frances MD||O'Hara, Todd M

publication date

  • March 2008