SEDAC Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center
Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion 1998 Assessment


Are Animals at Risk?

6) Are hair-covered animals at any risk?

Yes. Skin cancer is found in almost all animals that have been studied in the long-term, for example, cattle, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rats, and mice. Direct effects of UV-B radiation on body parts which are covered by thick hair are negligible. However, even furred animals usually have exposed skin around mouth and nostrils, and sometimes on some other parts of the body. These parts, unless they are heavily pigmented, can be damaged by radiation.

7) Will penguins be affected by the ozone hole?

To our knowledge there are no studies concerning UV-B effects on penguins. As their eyes are exposed to a lot of UV due to the high reflectivity of snow and a marked enhancement during the ozone hole, investigation into the impact on penguins is desirable. The fact that penguins are visual predators, eating krill or fish in the water column, would make any eye damage an important issue for survival.

8) Is UV-B radiation a factor in the decline of frogs and other amphibians?

Possibly. Amphibian populations are in serious decline in many areas of the world, and scientists are seeking explanations for this. Most amphibian population declines are probably due to habitat destruction or habitat alteration. Some declines are probably the result of natural population fluctuations. Other explanations for the population declines, as well as the reductions in range of habitation, include disease, pollution, atmospheric changes and introduced competitors and predators. UV-B radiation is one agent that may act in conjunction with other stresses to adversely affect amphibian populations. Field studies in which embryos of frogs, toads, and salamanders were exposed to natural sunlight or to sunlight with UV-B radiation removed have shown conflicting results. Some studies resulted in increased embryonic mortality after UV-B exposure, whereas others show that current levels of UV-B radiation are not detrimental. Factors such as water depth, water colour, and the dissolved organic content of the water at the sites of egg deposition effectively reduce UV-B penetration through the water and reduce exposure to UV-B radiation at all life history stages. Biotic factors, such as jelly capsules around eggs, melanin pigmentation of eggs, and colour of larvae and metamorphosed forms, further reduce the effects of UV-B exposure.

Aquatic Life

9) Does water effectively shield aquatic organisms from UV exposure?

No. Pure water is quite transparent to UV radiation; a beam of UV-B radiation must travel over one-half kilometre through pure water in order to be completely absorbed. Natural waters do contain UV-absorbing substances, such as dissolved organic matter, that partly shields aquatic organisms from UV-B, but the degree of shielding varies widely from one water body to another. In clear ocean and lake waters ecologically-significant levels of UV-B can penetrate to several tens of meters; in contrast, in turbid rivers and wetlands UV-B may be completely absorbed within the top few decimetres. Most organisms in aquatic ecosystems, such as phytoplankton, live in the illuminated euphotic zone close to the water surface where exposure to UV-B can occur. In particular, UV-B radiation may damage those organisms that live at the surface of the water during their early life stages.


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