THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON BLUE WHALE MIGRATION IN THE EASTERN PACIFIC
Author: Amanda Shuman
Major: Marine Sciences
Graduation Year: 2017
Thesis Advisor: Fei Chai
Description of Publication: Climate change is one of the most pressing problems the world is facing today. Due to human emissions, the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is escalating at a concerning rate. This increase is causing ocean temperatures to rise, pH levels to lower, and altering the habitats of countless species. Balaenoptera musculus, or the blue whale, is a highly migratory species that relies on the stability of its’ habitats for foraging and calving grounds. They rely on the upwelling of nutrients and consistent conditions that allow for substantial prey populations to accumulate. With the effects of climate change altering the temperature and pH of these areas, prey populations may shift their distribution, thus altering the blue whales migration patterns. I reviewed numerous papers with a focus on three main topics: current blue whale migration pattern, current conditions for their calving and foraging grounds, and the climate change projections for those key areas. The response to climate change of the blue whales main food source, krill, was additionally looked at. The cold, nutrient rich water of the Northeast Pacific provides a viable habitat for euphausiid crustaceans, such as krill, to flourish in numbers. The blue whales use these feeding grounds in the summer months, and winter in tropical waters. The Costa Rican Dome is an area of significant upwelling and warm waters, which provide suitable waters for birthing their calves. The unprecedented changes to these areas could significantly impact blue whale abundance and distribution.
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URL to Thesis: https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/honors/264/