Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why is climate change having negative impact on polar bears?

Polar bears have over the years become negative symbol for climate change, and the most obvious negative impact of climate change in reference to polar bears has certainly been the rapid loss of ice in polar areas.

Polar bears depend on ice not only for hunting prey (because early melting of the ice makes it more difficult for the bears to hunt seals successfully) but also for successful breeding.

The latest study by the researchers from the University of Alberta has showed that rapid loss of ice cover has very negative impact on breeding because females are hunting seals on the ice to gather enough energy for the autumn and winter when they will hibernate for up to eight months and give birth.

Less ice means less prey, and less prey means less energy, which in the ends results in fewer cubs.

The scientists calculated that if the ice melts up two months earlier than in the 1990s, there is a 55 to a full 100% chance that all pregnant female polar bears will not have a single cub.

Researchers usually study Hudson Bay polar bear population, and this was also the case in this study. The researchers have calculated that if spring break up in Hudson Bay comes one month earlier than in the 1990s, there is a 40 to 73% chance that pregnant female polar bears will not give birth to a single cub.

Hudson Bay polar bear population currently counts around 900 individuals, down from 1200 individuals a decade ago. The total number of polar bears across the entire Arctic is estimated at around 20,000.

The equation is pretty simple, namely less ice equals less polar bears. Judging by the current levels (Arctic sea ice was at its lowest ever level this January), things are certainly not looking good for polar bears in years to come.

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