Scientists say that a deadly virus that has already spread from one ocean to another has the potential to circulate further as sea ice levels continue to decline.
Focal distemper virus (PDV) affects mammals with fins and fins such as seals, sea lions and otters.
Using satellite imagery, the researchers documented its spread over 15 years. The results were published Thursday in the Scientific Reports magazine.
The researchers collected samples from 2,500 marine mammals from 2001 to 2016. They found that when water routes started to open periodically between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific, virus infections increased.
"The loss of sea ice is leading marine fauna to seek and seek new habitats and remove that physical barrier, allowing them new paths to move," said Dr. Tracey Goldstein, one of the authors of the study BBC news.
"While animals move and come into contact with other species, they offer the opportunity to introduce and transmit new infectious diseases, with potentially devastating impacts."
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It has been observed that PDV caused serious deaths in seal ports both in 1988 and 2002 in the North Atlantic.
According to the study, it was confirmed in 2004 that PDV spread to stellar sea lions in the North Pacific, most likely due to a record glacial meltdown in 2002. More than 30% of tested sea lions were found to carry the virus .
The virus has declined in the following years, but will peak again in 2009, after the other record of melting ice in 2007 has opened waterways, facilitating the spread of the virus.
Arctic sea ice declined by an average of 12.8 percent every decade between 1979 and 2018, according to the intergovernmental climate change group (IPCC).
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"It is very probable that the extension of the Arctic sea ice continues to decrease in all the months of the year; the strongest reductions in September probably have no precedent in at least 1,000 years ", stated the IPCC in their Political report on the ocean and the cryosphere, published in September.
"It is virtually certain that Arctic sea ice has diluted, in conjunction with a shift to younger ice: since 1979, the proportion of ice at least five years has decreased by about 90%."
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