Why is water polar in nature

Arctic wildlife

Life below zero

The north polar region is not only a habitat for animals that live on the closed ice sheet. Algae and other microorganisms also live in the sea ice itself and form the beginning of the food chain.

The first artists to adapt were algae and microorganisms that live in the sea ice or on its underside. The water there is minus two degrees Celsius. The boundary layer between ice and water is very rich in nutrients.

The highly concentrated salt lake, which is created when sea water freezes to ice, is particularly good habitat for small organisms. Arctic ice algae, for example, hardly need any light for photosynthesis.

The Arctic ecosystem has short food chains, which in some cases consist of only a few links: Sea and ice algae are eaten by zooplankton and krill, which in turn feed cod or herring and also the baleen whales. The fish are eaten by seals. And the marine mammals, in turn, serve as food for the polar bear - it is the last link in the chain and the only Arctic inhabitant without a natural predator.

Many arctic mammals live in the water

In the arctic cold, avoiding heat loss is essential for animals of the same temperature. With thick layers of fat, all arctic mammals and also many bird species are perfectly adapted to the cold on land and in the water.

Large animals have the advantage that their body surface area is relatively small in relation to their body volume - and so is the loss of heat.

A large number of mammals live in the ocean in the Arctic Ocean. In addition to the two largest species - the blue whale and the fin whale - almost all species of whales can be found in Arctic waters, plankton-eating bowhead, humpback and minke whales as well as many toothed whale species.

The large marine mammals were and are hunted to different degrees and therefore sometimes only live in small populations in certain waters. The narwhal, related to the beluga, is the most northern species.

Seals are skilled swimmers and only come on the ice to sleep and sunbathe on land. Unlike the sea lions belonging to the ear seals, dog seals have no hind fins on which to walk. Therefore, they have to move on land by contracting their core muscles. This makes the seals slow and easy prey for polar bears and humans.

Walruses also belong to the seal family. The large tusks of the male animal can on the one hand help to climb an ice floe, but also make an impression on conquering a female and deterring rivals. Even today, walruses are hunted for their tusks.

Polar bears and reindeer live on the ice

Although polar bears live on the ice, they are so excellent swimmers that they are considered marine animals. They get their high cold tolerance from their thick fur, the hair of which is hollow. Your skin is jet black and can store so much heat.

In addition, it protects a thick layer of fat under the skin from the cold. Polar bears are carnivores. They only eat plants in times of need, for example during the ice-free summer.

Herbivores such as reindeer, caribou and musk ox, on the other hand, could hardly survive in permanent ice. They migrate to the ice-free regions in the arctic winter to look for grass, lichens and mosses. Arctic foxes or arctic foxes, mountain hares, ermines, lemmings and wolves also live in the cold regions.

Many animal species are threatened

Except for the indigenous peoples like the Inuit, hardly any people live in the Arctic. Nevertheless, the people there also pose a massive threat to the animal world. In addition to the problem of overfishing in the North Atlantic, many marine mammals have also been hunted to the brink of extinction in the past centuries. In this way, the already fragile balance of the food chain is massively threatened.

The disappearance of the pack ice, which is melting faster and faster due to climate change, is also making life increasingly difficult for the animals living on the ice.

Worse than these relatively slow changes in the environment, however, is the immediate threat posed by environmental toxins. These are particularly concentrated in the Arctic ecosystem. They get there with wind and ocean currents from all over the world and, due to the climate, can only be degraded very slowly or not at all.

Ship noise and oil drilling pose further threats to the Arctic fauna. Numerous arctic animal species are currently considered endangered.