Shrinking sea ice threatens natural highways for caribou, plants | Science News

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Shrinking sea ice threatens natural highways for caribou, plants

Both furry and flowery travelers face trouble in a warmer world

7:05pm, September 20, 2016
Left: Peary caribou; Right: mountain avens flowers

ICE TRAVELERS  Shrinking sea ice matters to land dwellers too, as ice bridges and transport dwindles for migrating Peary caribou (left) and seed dispersing mountain avens flowers (right). 

As warming breaks up the sea ice that serves as great frozen highways for Arctic wildlife, caribou and even wildflowers face route shutdowns, long detours or outright strandings.

Already, ice bridges Peary caribou need for their seasonal migrations from island to island are becoming scarcer, with worse to come, an international research team reports September 21 in Biology Letters. In the same issue, other researchers suggest that even some plants need the icy travel routes: Ancestors of dozens of wildflower and miniature tree species probably used sea ice to colonize the far north after the last ice age.

Both studies point to the worrisome possibility that Arctic plants and animals will face increasing difficulties sustaining their populations as their territories become more

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