The Effects of Climate Change on Krill

Climate change is having devastating effects on our oceans and our planet and is affecting populations of wildlife including fish, marine mammals and corals.  One of the biggest populations affected involves one of Earth’s smallest but most important creatures, krill. Krill are tiny, shrimplike creatures that play a big role in the Antarctic food chain.   Krill serves as a food source for many marine animals including the largest animal on the planet, the Blue Whale.  The blue whales alone can eat up to 4 tons of krill, each day. 

Most Antarctic krill are found in an area of the Weddell Sea to the Antarctic Peninsula and serve as an important food source for whales, seals and penguins.  As the krill population declines, these animals are forced to find other sources of food.  In the past 40 years, the populations of krill have declined by about 70 to 80 percent and much of this is due to climate change.  As ocean temperatures increase, there is less sea ice, which causes less krill to survive to maturity and therefore less food for the larger animals in the area.  As sea ice melts, there is also less phytoplankton, which means that the hatching krill larvae have no food source as well.  Scientists are concerned about the impacts of future climate change may have on the krill population and the larger Antarctic ecosystem.  Check out this video of whales feeding on krill.

Almost everything in the Antarctic ecosystem depends on krill and as ocean temperatures continue to rise, the populations are going to further diminish.  To help rebuild these krill populations, we need to act to stop climate change.  Simple actions like using energy efficient appliances, replacing your lightbulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and recycling can make a big difference on these small creatures which mean so much to bigger creatures on the planet. 

Written By: Stefanie Schmidt

Edited By: Bob Stone



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