Sydney - More ice means fewer elephant seal pups, according to Australian scientists studying breeding colonies on Macquarie Island near Antarctica and atmospheric changes in the region that have affected the feeding grounds.
“When there's more sea ice the population is likely to go down and in years when there's less sea ice the population is likely to go up,” John van den Hoff, a marine biologist at the Australian Antarctic Division, told Reuters.
“When there's extra sea ice the seals can't access the continental shelf as readily as when there's either an average or lesser amount of sea ice.”
The causes are due to climate variability linked to a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, not climate change, said van den Hoff, a lead researcher on a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The scientists said they found the number of female elephant seals breeding on Macquarie Island isthmus fell nearly 25 percent from a high of 22 640 in 1988 to 17 228 in 2009.