The polar bear just got some terrible news about its home, and the very survival of the species has been thrown into question.
The polar bear is in huge trouble. That in and of itself is not news, but the poster animal for the dangers of climate change just got some really, really bad news recently, indicating that their numbers could drop a third by mid-century.
The claim is based on a systematic assessment of how decreasing Arctic sea ice affects this threatened species. The study, published in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters, claims that there is a 70 percent chance that the global polar bear population of 26,000 will decline by more than 30 percent over a 35-year period, according to the study.
Sea ice is vital for the survival of the polar bear, as it acts as a floating platform as they hunt seals. The bears would have no chance to outswim seals in open water, and therefore rely on these platforms in order to catch their primary prey.
Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t good, as the 10 lowest Arctic ice extents over the satellite record have occurred since 2007, including a record low in 2012, which was 44 percent lower than the average between 1981 an 2010. The Arctic could be completely free of ice during the summers as early as the 2030s, climate scientists claim.
“Loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is the most serious threat to Polar Bears throughout their circumpolar range,” the IUCN says about the polar bear, which is listed as vulnerable. “We performed a data-based sensitivity analysis with respect to this threat by evaluating the potential response of the global Polar Bear population to projected sea-ice conditions. Our analyses included a comprehensive assessment of generation length (GL) for Polar Bears; development of a standardized sea-ice metric representing important habitat characteristics for the species; and population projections, over three Polar Bear generations, using computer simulation and statistical models representing alternative relationships between sea ice and Polar Bear abundance.
“Our analyses highlight the potential for large reductions in the global Polar Bear population if sea-ice loss continues, which is forecast by climate models and other studies (IPCC 2013),” the IUCN continues. “Our analyses also highlight the large amount of uncertainty in statistical projections of Polar Bear abundance and the sensitivity of projections to plausible alternative assumptions.”