December 14, 2009--
Like polar bears, ringed seals
(above, a newborn rests in the snows of Nunavut, Canada) depend on summer sea ice in the Arctic for their survival. No one knows what will happen to the seals and other species if polar summer ice completely disappears due to global warming
--which may occur in the Arctic by 2040
, experts say.
That's one of the reasons the seals, along with arctic foxes, emperor penguins, and beluga whales, are among ten "flagship" species named in a new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which highlights the diversity of global warming's impacts on wildlife.
Many of the species featured in the new report, released today at the Copenhagen climate change conference
, already appear on IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species
for other reasons, such as habitat destruction and overharvesting.
This makes climate change an "additional and major threat," the report authors say. Find out more about IUCN's ten "flagship" species >>
Photograph by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Stock