- Bering Sea
The Bering (or ImarpikFact|date=April 2008) Sea is a body of water in the
Pacific Oceanthat comprises a deep water basin (the Aleutian Basin) which rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves.
The Bering Sea is separated from the
Gulf of Alaskaby the Alaska Peninsulaand Aleutian Islands. Covering over two million square kilometers ("775,000 sq mi"), it is bordered on the east and northeast by Alaska, on the west by Russia's Siberiaand Kamchatka Peninsula, on the south by the Alaska Peninsulaand the Aleutian Islandsand on the far north by the Bering Straitwhich separates the Bering Sea from the Arctic Ocean's Chukchi Sea. Bristol Bayis the portion of the Bering Sea which separates the Alaska Peninsulafrom mainland Alaska. The Bering Sea is named for the first European discoverer to sail its waters, the Danish navigator Vitus Bering.
The Bering Sea ecosystem includes resources within the jurisdiction of the United States and Russia, as well as
international watersin the ‘Donut Hole’. The interaction between currents, sea ice, and weather make for a vigorous and productive ecosystem.
Most scientists believe that during the most recent
ice age, sea levelwas low enough to allow humans and other animals to migrate on foot from Asiato North Americaacross what is now the Bering Strait. This is commonly referred to as the " Bering land bridge" and is believed by some—though not all— to be the first point of entry of humans into the Americas.
There is a small portion of the
Kula Platein the Bering Sea. The Kula Plate is an ancient tectonic platethat used to subductunder Alaska during the Triassicperiod.
Islands of the Bering Sea include:
Komandorski Islands, including Bering Island
St. Lawrence Island
St. Matthew Island
Regions of the Bering Sea include
The Bering Sea contains 16
submarine canyons including the largest submarine canyon in the world, Zhemchug canyon.
Bering Sea Shelfbreak is the dominant driver of primary productivityin the Bering Sea.Springer, A.M., C.P. McRoy, and M.V. Flint. 1996. The Bering Sea green belt: shelf-edge processes and ecosystem production. Fisheries Oceanography 5, 205-223.] This zone, where the shallower continental shelfdrops off into the Aleutian Basinis also known as the “Greenbelt”. Nutrient upwelling from the cold waters of the Aleutian basin flowing up the slope and mixing with shallower waters of the shelf provide for constant production of phytoplankton.
The second driver of productivity in the Bering Sea is seasonal
sea icethat, in part, triggers the spring phytoplankton bloom. Seasonal melting of sea ice causes an influx of lower salinity water into the middle and other shelf areas, causing stratification and hydrographic effects which influence productivity.Schumacher, J.D., T. J. Kinder, D. J. Pashinski, and R. L. Charnell. 1979. A structural front over the continental shelf of the eastern Bering Sea. Journal Physical Oceanography 9: 79-87. ] In addition to the hydrographic and productivity influence of melting sea ice, the ice itself also provides an attachment substrate for the growth of algae as well as interstitial ice algae. The productivity associated with sea ice is under threat as global warmingcauses a reduction of sea ice in the Bering Sea.
Some evidence suggests that great changes to the Bering Sea ecosystem have already occurred. Warm water conditions in the summer of 1997 resulted in a massive bloom of low energy
coccolithophoridphytoplankton (Stockwell et al. 2001). A long record of carbon isotopes, which is reflective of primary production trends of the Bering Sea, exists from historical samples of bowhead whale baleen.Schell, D. M. 2000. Declining carrying capacity in the Bering Sea: isotopic evidence from whale baleen. Limnol. Oceanogr. 45(2): 459-462. ] Trends in carbon isotope ratios in whale baleen samples suggest that a 30-40% decline in average seasonal primary productivity has occurred over the last 50 years. The implication is that the carrying capacityof the Bering Sea is much lower now than it has been in the past.
The Bering Sea is home to some of the world's most interesting wildlife. This sea supports many endangered whale species including
bowhead whale, blue whale, fin whale, sei whale, humpback whale, sperm whale, and the rarest whale in the world, the North Pacific Right Whale. Other marine mammals include walrus, Steller's sea lion, Northern Fur Seal, Beluga whales, Orcas (or Killer Whale), and polar bears.
The Bering Sea is very important to the seabirds of the world. Over 30 species of seabirds and approximately 20 million individuals breed in the Bering Sea region. Seabird species include
tufted puffins, the endangered Short-tailed Albatross, Spectacled Eider, and Red-legged Kittiwakes. Many of these species are unique to the area, which provides highly productive foraging habitat, particularly along the shelf edge and in other nutrient-rich upwelling regions, such as the Pribilof, Zhemchug, and Pervenets canyons.
Two Bering Sea species, the
Steller's Sea Cow("Hydrodamalis gigas") and spectacled cormorant("Phalacrocorax perspicillatus"), are extinct because of overexploitation by man. In addition, a small subspecies of Canada goose, the Bering Canada goose ("Branta canadensis asiatica") is extinct due to overhunting and introduction of rats to their breeding islands.
The Bering Sea supports many species of fish. Some species of fish support large and valuable commercial fisheries. Commercial fish species include 6 species of Pacific
salmon, walleye pollock, red king crab, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, yellowfin sole, Pacific ocean perchand sablefish.
Fish biodiversity is high, and at least 419 species of fish have been reported from the Bering Sea.
Bering Sea fisheries
The Bering Sea is a world renowned treasure for its enormously productive and profitable fisheries, such as King Crab, [ [http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/kodiak/photo/crabgprkc14a.htm Red King Crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus] Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Retrieved
2007-04-07.] opilio and tanner crabs, Bristol Bay salmon, pollock and other groundfish. These fisheries rely on the productivity of the Bering Sea via a complicated and little understood food web. The continued existence of these fisheries requires an intact, healthy, and productive ecosystem.
Commercial fishing is big business in the Bering Sea, which is relied upon by the largest seafood companies in the world to produce fish and shellfish. On the U.S. side, commercial fisheries catch approximately $1 billion worth of seafood annually, while Russian Bering Sea fisheries are worth approximately $600 million annually.
The Bering Sea also serves as the central location of the Alaskan
king craband Opilio crabseasons, which are chronicled on the Discovery Channeltelevision program " Deadliest Catch".
Links to Bering Sea data
The [http://www.beringclimate.noaa.gov/ Bering Sea] supports some of the world's richest fisheries, and landings from Alaskan waters represents half the U.S. catch of fish and shellfish. Because of the [http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/detect changes going on in the Arctic] , future evolution of the Bering Sea climate/ecosystem is more uncertain. This is a symmetric problem: climate change impacts ecosystems, and ecosystems serve as indicators for climate change. Track the [http://www.beringclimate.noaa.gov/bering_status_overview.html current State of the Bering Sea] with near-realtime ecological and climatic indicators. [ [http://www.beringclimate.noaa.gov/quick_data_summary.html Bering climate] NOAA. Retrieved
Bering Sea Arbitration
Timeline of environmental events
* [http://www.beringclimate.noaa.gov/ Bering Sea Climate and Ecosystem] Comprehensive web resource on the physical and biological factors affecting life in the Bering Sea, with maps, photos, essays on key Bering Sea issues, organizations, ecosystem information, and viewable data with narratives on trends and ecosystem relevance - from NOAA.
* [http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/np/ North Pacific Ocean theme page]
* [http://library.state.ak.us/asp/edocs/2007/04/ocn132695933.pdf Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands area state-waters groundfish fisheries and groundfish harvest from parallel seasons in 2005 / by Barbi Failor-Rounds and Krista Milani.] Hosted by [http://library.state.ak.us/asp Alaska State Publications Program] .
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