Polar bears will face starvation and reproductive failure leading to extinction due to heavy loss of Arctic ice, says a study.
Under a business-as-usual scenario, each polar bear population in Canada’s Arctic region may undergo two to five months of ice-free conditions, spurring the decline of the predator’s population.
The Alberta study, published in Plos One, used sea ice projections for the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from 2006-2100 and metrics developed from polar bear energetics modelling.
As noted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which co-sponsored the study, the ice is the habitat where bears mate and raise their cubs. Sea ice is also an essential resting and breeding area for their primary food, ringed seals.
While the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, home to 20% of the world’s polar bears, has sea ice throughout the year, that situation is rapidly changing.
The changing physical characteristics of marine ecosystems and loss of habitat affect polar bears in critical ways, concludes researcher Stephen Hamilton from University of Alberta and colleagues.
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