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Warming climate threatens rodent population that feeds Arctic foxes

Warming climate threatens food supply for Arctic foxes
Warming climate threatens food supply for Arctic foxes 02:35

PALO ALTO -- The Arctic fox is a natural beauty but this captivating creature with its playful nature and distinctive look is under threat.

Experts say Arctic foxes need to hunt rodents to survive long winters and climate change is thinning the rodent population.

"If we get warmer and more unstable climate, where you can get snow melt and you get icing on the ground, that is going to affect how well the rodents can survive," explained conservation biologist Kristine Ulvund with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

Stanford professor of biology Elizabeth Hadley, who has studied biodiversity for decades, cautions that the Arctic fox is not the only species under threat. She explained how human activity and climate change are the two major factors that are challenging the survival of many species around the world.

"Extinction happens in a heartbeat and evolution takes a very long time. So it's easier to kind of kill something than it is to allow it to persist. So biodiversity is threatened in many ways by humanity and the Arctic foxes exemplify those threats," Hadly said.

In the Artic, Norwegian scientists have set up more than 30 feeding stations across the wilderness. They believe that, without this food, the Arctic fox would go extinct.

"If we stop the feeding now, we will see a decrease in the population sizes and that would be really detrimental," Ulvund said.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature issued a report in December 2023. The report detailed how over 44,000 species are now threatened with extinction.

Dr. Hadly said we have a moral responsibility to consider what we can do to stem the loss.

"It requires major activities on the part of humanity, not just a single person. We can all do our share but it requires major, major action for us to consider what we can do to stem global change," she said.

That major action would include dramatically reducing greenhouse gases both locally, nationally and globally and preserving wildlife habitat so we can outfox the threat.

Hadly added how we need to maintain the nature that we already have and she pointed out that California is a leader in this effort. 


Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

Stanford Hadly Lab

International Union for the Conservation of Nature

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