Climate change: New polar bear prognosis not good, as feds prepare to publish recovery plan

‘Addressing sea ice loss will require global policy solutions …’

polar bear map

An updated USGS study shows how global warming will affect polar bears.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Loss of Arctic sea ice caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases remains as the primary threat to polar bears, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said after updating their research models.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions drastically reduced, sea ice will continue to shrink for decades, leading to a significant loss of polar bear habitat in many parts of the Arctic. The Canadian Archipelago is a notable exception. That region may serve as a climate refuge for the bears and other ice-dependent species, the federal scientists said. Continue reading

Study: Polar bears can’t survive on berries and bird eggs

Do polar bears hibernate? Read the latest edition of our bear blog to find out.

Can polar bears survive the Arctic meltdown? Photo courtesy USGS.

Arctic sea ice decline is bad news for apex predators

Staff Report

*Click here for more Summit Voice stories on polar bears and climate change

FRISCO — The idea that polar bears may somehow adapt to the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice by switching to land-based food sources isn’t supported by science, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Some polar bears are eating berries, birds and eggs as they’re forced ashore by the retreating sea ice. But the behavior isn’t widespread and probably can’t make up for the loss of the bears’ primary prey — fatty, protein-rich ice seals, according to new research led by U.S. Geological Survey scientists. Continue reading

How will Arctic sea ice meltdown affect marine mammals?

‘These animals require sea ice …’

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A polar bear on Alaska’s North Slope. Photo via Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Enacting more endangered species regulations isn’t enough to reduce global warming threats to ice-dependent marine mammals in the Arctic, scientists say.

In a new report published in the journal Conservation Biology, a research team called for better monitoring, increased cooperation and more study of how increasing human activity in the Arctic will affect ecosystems.

The report assesses the status of all circumpolar species and sub-populations of Arctic marine mammals, including seals, whales and polar bears and underscores the precarious state of those mammals.

“These species are not only icons of climate change, but they are indicators of ecosystem health, and key resources for humans,” said lead author Kristin Laidre, a polar scientist with the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory. Continue reading

Climate: Genetic study shows polar bears chasing ice

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The Arctic is changing, and nobody is sure if polar bears will be able to survive the impending meltdown. Photo courtesy USGS.

Arctic predators looking for areas with reliable ice

Staff Report

FRISCO — Polar bears are heading farther north as Arctic sea ice dwindles, scientists said this week, publishing the results of a new study that took a close look at the genetics of the 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears.

The research found that those 19 populations can be clustered into four genetically-similar groups, corresponding to ecological and oceanographic factors. These four clusters are the Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago, and Southern Canada.

The study showed that the gene flow in the most recent generations of polar bears is toward the Canadian Archipelago, where sea ice is expected to persist longer than in other parts of the Arctic. Continue reading

Global warming: Many polar bear populations likely to be in serious trouble by the end of the century

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Can polar bears survive the century?

Ongoing loss of sea ice threatens huge areas of habitat in Canada’s Arctic

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is reshaping the Arctic so fast that a quarter of the world’s polar bear population is likely to be in serious trouble by the end of the century.

Vanishing sea ice and longer ice-free periods will put many of the predators at risk of starvation and reproductive failure, according to a new study led by the University of Alberta’s Stephen Hamilton.

The findings, published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, used sea ice projections for the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from 2006-2100 and metrics developed from polar bear energetics modeling to gain insight into the conservation challenges for polar bears facing habitat loss. Continue reading

Study show drop in Beaufort Sea polar bear numbers

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

Is dwindling sea ice a factor?

Staff report

FRISCO — Polar bear populations in the southern Beaufort Sea  dropped 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, biologists say in a new study. The research suggests that survival of adult bears and cubs was especially low from 2004 to 2006, when most of the decline occurred.

“Of the 80 cubs observed in Alaska from 2004 to 2007, only 2 are known to have survived,” said Jeff Bromaghin, a U.S. Geological Survey research statistician and lead author of the study. Continue reading

Arctic: Satellite images help track polar bears

Data will help assess global warming impacts to Arctic wildlife

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Polar bears near a U.S. Navy submarine.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The latest generation of high-resolution satellite images may help scientists gain a better understanding of Arctic polar bear populations. Dwindling Arctic sea ice is seen a huge threat to the predators, but difficult field conditions make it challenging to get a clear picture of polar bear population dynamics.

Satellite images have also been used recently to track emperor penguins in Antarctica, and researchers are starting to rely on satellite images more and more. In a new study, U.S. Geological Survey biologists matched satellite surveys with ground-truthed counts. Continue reading

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