Tuesday, February 5, 2013

World running out of time to save polar bears

Polar bears are widely being associated as the clear negative sign of ongoing climate change phenomenon. The rapid changes in sensitive Arctic environment, mostly characterized by the ongoing ice cover loss are having devastating impact on polar bear population, and could even lead to the extinction of species, even before the end of this century if world continues business as usual scenario. In most simple words, polar bears need sea ice, and since sea ice is rapidly declining, the bears are in very serious trouble.

The worst part in this whole story is that the world still hasn't come up with the adequate conservation and management plans to save polar bears from extinction, and climate change threat is becoming scarier with the each new day. Scientists from University of Alberta have described the seriousness of polar bear situation by saying that „just one very bad ice year could erase half of the world's polar bear population.“

The world definitely does not know what to do if the worst-case scenario occurs. The expected continuation of Arctic warming will not stop just because we want to, and will certainly not stop without the major global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. What kind of polar bear management option would be the best? Difficult to say, particularly if world fails to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions in foreseeable future.

Some suggest protected parks where bears would be fed and released when freeze-ups allow them to get to their hunting grounds. This solution certainly looks good but would cost millions of dollars. However, from the environmental point of view no costs seem high enough to pay though this solution could also have negative impact on animals' long-term behavior.

At this moment, the most important thing is to think and act about this issue in advance, because the worst possible thing is to act once crisis already starts. Though as some would say crisis has already started.

Polar bear - The international symbol of climate change

Some interesting info about polar bears: 

Canada is home to about two-thirds of the world’s polar bears, with the most known population inhabiting Hudson Bay with around 1000 individuals. The total number of polar bears across the Arctic is estimated to be between 20,000 and 25,000.

The 2011 study concluded that if spring break up in Hudson Bay comes one month earlier than in the 1990s, 40 to 73 %of pregnant female polar bears will not reproduce.

The ongoing climate change forces polar bears and their cubs to swim longer distances to find food.

The 2010 UCLA study concluded that polar bears could not survive in the warmer world with one of the top reasons being the fact that „they are likely to lose out in competition for food to grizzlies as warmer temperatures bring them into the same environments, because grizzlies' stronger skulls are better suited to a plant-rich diet.“

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