In Alaska, As Goes the Ice, So Goes the Food

The Arctic food web is unraveling as the ice melts. An interactive animation shows you what happens when even the smallest species disappears.

The cover article of the current issue of OnEarth is a terrific, if somewhat depressing, must read. (Is there a term yet for must-read long reads?) Bruce Barcott plunges into the frigid, but melting, Arctic Seas, and comes out with a story of how the oh-so-fragile food web of the upper latitudes is starting to come undone.

Perhaps as good as the article itself is the accompanying material online. An interactive, animated graphic invites you to click on various Arctic species to see what would happen if they disappeared. By watching the impacts on other species—even humans—it becomes as clear as an Alaska stream how interconnected the aquatic ecosystem is, and what a severe threat warming is on the entire Arctic way of life. Click here or on the image below to toy around with the web.

There's also an audio slideshow of Barcott's photos and narration from Kotzebue, a remote village in far northern Alaska.


In such a remote area, where importing food is so difficult, Barcott emphasizes, "humans are an intricate part of the food web." He also eats some moose stew and sips some seal oil. His review: "Amazing stuff! Like incredibly buttery and rich olive oil."