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The Siku Project

Machines to thicken the Arctic ice and support Indigenous people

Siku

An Inuit word for sea ice

Wildlife

Research by climatologists and marine biologists has provided unmistakable evidence that the Arctic sea ice is thinning year on year. This reduces albedo, alters ocean currents and has a drastic effect on the ecosystem of the Arctic.

Many animals have evolved to live on the ice margins and rely on being close to land or the sea bed to feed, travel and foster young. As the sea ice retreats, animals cannot adapt quickly enough and this has already lead to dramatic falls in population numbers.

SIKU aims to conserve a 300m wide band of ice at the outer edge of designated wildlife zones into the spring and summer, providing a vital habitat for these animals to live as they once did. For example the Last Ice Area.

Polar bears

Polar bears are dependent on sea ice, where they hunt seals and use ice corridors to move from one area to another. Pregnant females build their winter dens in areas with thick snow cover on land or on sea ice and emerge hungry with their cubs in spring. They depend upon good Spring ice conditions for successful seal hunting, upon which the family depends. Changes in the extent and stability of the ice are thus of critical importance, and observed and projected declines in sea ice are very likely to have devastating consequences for the polar bear.

Narwhal

The Narwhal has always been sought after particularly for the value of their tusks. As the sea ice melts, they spend more time out in the open and therefore are much more likely to be caught by fisherman. Rapidly changing ice conditions can also be a threat to them. We aim to stabilise the outer area of ice, thus providing plenty of space for the narwhal to hide and thrive.

Ringed seals

Ringed seals use the sea ice to rest on and also give birth to and nurse their pups. They also forage near the ice edge and under the ice. Other seal species have adapted to come ashore to give birth, but this leads to predation and low survival rates. The ringed seal also requires sufficient snow cover and stable sea ice in the spring to construct lairs to rear their young successfully. Earlier break-up of the ice could result in premature separation of mothers and pups, leading to higher death rates among newborns.

Sea ice birds

Some seabirds, such as ivory gulls, nest and breed on rocky cliffs that offer protection from predators, and fly to the nearby sea ice to fish through cracks. As the sea ice edge retreats further from suitable coastal nesting sites, serious consequences are highly probable.

Major declines have already been observed in ivory gull populations, including an estimated 90% reduction in Canada over the past 20 years.

Walrus

The ice edge is an extremely productive area, especially when it is near the coasts. Walruses rest on the ice and are bottom feeders, so as the ice edge retreats, they have to swim further to feed so that more energy is required to catch the same amount of food.

Ice algae and the related food web

The vast reduction in multiyear ice in the Arctic Ocean is likely to be immensely disruptive to microscopic life forms associated with the ice, as they will lack a permanent habitat. Research suggests that most of the larger marine algae under the ice (at the bottom of the food chain) died out between the 1970s and the late 1990s, and were replaced by less productive species of algae usually associated with freshwater.

Useful links

Polar Bears International

Arctic Animals