Polar Bear Population Will Decline By More Than 30% By Mid-Century, Study Estimates

Posted: Dec 7 2016, 6:50am CST | by , Updated: Dec 7 2016, 7:03pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Polar Bears Population will Decline by 30% by Mid-Century, Study Estimates
Courtesy of National Geographic

Melting Arctic ice could disappear a third of polar bear popultion in the next 35 years

Polar bears population is expected to plunge in the next 35 years because of melting Arctic ice, a new research suggests.

As the climate change melts sea ice, researchers project that one third of the polar bears could disappear by mid-century and this decline in polar bears population is occurring in our lifetime.

Polar bear, also known as Ursus maritimus, are marine mammals that spend most of their life on icy waters rather than land and depend on sea ice for most of their needs. The loss of its sea ice habitat means fewer hunting opportunities and increased scarcity of food.

“Climate change is the primary threat to the species because, over the long term, global temperatures will increase and Arctic sea ice will decrease as long as atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise.” Authors wrote in the study, which is the first to assess the abundance of polar bear in relation to sea ice.

Currently, the global population of polar bears is around 26,000 individuals. The population is further divided in to 19 subpopulations scattered across four ecological zones in the Arctic. If global warming trends continue in the same say, the polar bear number may decline from 26,000 to just 9,000 over 35 years and the probability that polar bear numbers would drop is more than 70 percent.

To forecast the effects of continued sea-ice loss on polar bears, researchers incorporated satellite data with computer simulations and projected that changes in sea ice will have a profound effect on the global population size over the course of next 35 years, a period corresponding to three polar bear generations.

The findings are also consistent with International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the authority that assesses the biodiversity and ranks species in different categories on the basis of its decline. Polar bears are currently listed as “vulnerable” in IUCN red list of threatened and endangered species.

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