Earlier this week, just after the conclusion of the "Year Of The Ocean" (1998), scientists sounded an alarm about the health of an entire ocean ecosystem -- the Bering Sea. Located between Alaska and Russia in the North Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea provides nearly half of the fish and shellfish caught in the US. However, unusual atmospheric and oceanic conditions during the summers of 1997 and 1998 (including El Nino) gave rise to warmer ocean temperatures, changes in ocean currents and atmospheric conditions, several typically-rare algal blooms, extensive seabird die-offs, and unprecedented low salmon runs. While alarming, some of these changes are not new to the Bering Sea. Over the past three decades, scientists have documented 50 to 90 percent declines in Steller sea lions and harbor seals in some areas, and populations of seabirds (common and thick-billed murres, red-legged and black-legged kittiwakes) have also fared poorly. Given the potential significance of these changes, increased attention is being paid to the processes, linkages, and organisms in the Bering Sea ecosystem. This week's In The News focuses on recent changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem. The eleven resources discussed offer background information, current research, and commentary.
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