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Harp Seal
Harp seal cluster on ice in the Barents Sea
Photo: Kjell Tormod Nilssen
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The ice egde

The Barents Sea ice extent varies inter-annually and has recently retreated. A poorer reproduction in ringed seal populations might be the first visible sign of the climate change.  

The location of the ice edge varies seasonally and inter-annually.

Climate variability can have significant effects on the Barents Sea ecosystem through changes in distribution of sea ice and range shifts in important species. It is expected that current trends of decreasing sea-ice cover and prolonged ice free periods in large parts of the Barents Sea will continue in a warmer climate. This is expected to have negative impact on ice-dependent flora and fauna.

Of special concern are the expected negative impacts on several ice-dependent mammal species which have already been severely reduced by human over-harvesting. Some of these effects may already be visible, such as for example the poor reproduction in ringed seal populations in the recent ice poor years in Svalbard.

Reduced sea-ice cover might also cause increased primary production in the Barents Sea. The newly ice-free waters may be favorable to zooplankton production. In next turn enhanced prey availability attracts larger fish and whales.