Quirks & Quarks

Polar Bears on Thin Ice

Evidence mounts that climate warming and the decline of seasonal sea ice in the Arctic is harming polar bear populations.
Polar Bear (courtesy Dr. Andrew Derocher)
We have known for many years that declining sea ice is having a negative impact on polar bears. Without ice cover, the bear's ability to hunt seals is restricted. But a couple of new studies by Dr. Andrew Derocher, a Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and his colleagues, have shown that the problem, over the past few years in one particular area, is much worse than they thought, and could become critical across the entire Arctic by the end of this century. In the southern Beaufort Sea region, the population fell from about 1500 to 900 bears over ten years, from 2000-2010. The second study showed that by 2100, polar bears across the Arctic may have to endure 2-to-5 ice-free months, if the current warming trend continues. 

Related Links

- Beaufort Sea paper in Ecological Applications
- CBC News article on Beaufort Sea bears
- U.S. Geological Survey release on Beaufort Sea paper
- Arctic Overview paper in PLoS One
- Toronto Star article
- Washington Post article