Cool Science
Getting Warmer

September 22, 2016

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Photo Credit: ©Kevin Rodriguez/WCS

Looking for Caspian tern chicks? Try looking north.

WCS scientists report finding the birds, which are the largest and most majestic type of terns, breeding nearly 1,000 miles farther north than previously recorded, above the Arctic Circle in the Chukchi Sea.

This is just one of a suite of profound alterations to the rhythms of this environment being reported by scientists and local residents. There is now less summer sea ice, and a longer snow- and ice-free season.

Simply put, summer conditions now last longer and more temperate species can, where possible, opportunistically move north.

"The challenge for scientists," says Dr. Martin Robards, Director of WCS's Arctic Beringia Program, "is to help understand the repercussions of these changes—for example, we've seen red foxes take over areas previously used by arctic foxes. We don't know what the repercussions of new colonies of Caspian terns will be on the current resident species, particularly if they gain more of a foothold and expand their numbers."

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