Summer habitat selection by ringed seals (Pusa hispida) in the drifting sea ice of the northern Barents Sea

  • Karen Lone Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
  • Charmain D. Hamilton Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
  • Jon Aars Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
  • Christian Lydersen Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
  • Kit M. Kovacs Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
Keywords: Arctic, Svalbard, climate change, Marginal Ice Zone, RSF, sea ice-associated marine mammals


Ringed seals are a central component of the Arctic ecosystem; they have a circumpolar distribution and are both important predators of lower trophic animals (invertebrates and fishes) and prey for polar bears and coastal human populations. They depend on sea ice for reproduction, moulting and resting, and they consume significant amounts of ice-associated prey. The population of ringed seals in Svalbard, Norway, uses both coastal and offshore habitats, the latter being important during seasonal migrations undertaken by some animals, mostly juveniles. This study examined habitat preferences of 18 satellite-tracked ringed seals (mostly young animals, but also a few adults) during late summer/autumn migrations to the drift ice in the northern Barents Sea. Resource selection functions showed that ringed seals preferred being close to the 50% sea-ice concentration threshold; a 120 km increase in the distance to the 50% sea-ice concentration threshold halved the probability of selection of a given area. In addition, higher sea-ice concentrations (80–100%) were between 1.4 and 2.2 times as likely to be selected as lower sea-ice concentrations or open water. Ringed seals use the marginal ice zone of the Barents Sea during summer/autumn. This offshore habitat has shifted northward during recent decades, which is likely causing negative effects on ringed seals by increasing the energetic cost of offshore migrations.


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How to Cite
Lone K., Hamilton C. D., Aars J., Lydersen C., & Kovacs K. M. (2019). Summer habitat selection by ringed seals (<em>Pusa hispida</em&gt;) in the drifting sea ice of the northern Barents Sea. Polar Research, 38.
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