By: Mallory Evatz
Summary: As climate change escalates, the Arctic ice that polar bears heavily depend on for hunting and traveling, is melting. By 2040, scientists predict that the majority of ice in Northeast Canada and Northern Greenland region will be gone as the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe on average. This is significantly affecting the survival of polar bears because as the ice melts, bears are spending roughly 30 more days on land while they must move longer distances to hunt for food and keep up with the retreating ice. The difficulty polar bears face when trying to hunt is resulting in starvation, as bears spend roughly 50% of their time hunting yet are only successful less than 2% of the time. At this rate, the global polar bear population is projected to decline by 30% by 2050 which is two thirds of the polar bear population. Additionally, toxic pollution including oil spills as well as the increase in large scale hunting poses a threat to the survival of polar bears. The rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as well as other greenhouse gases are making the Arctic Ocean more acidic which is making the ice melt faster. Since 2008, polar bears have been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Why we should care? Polar bears’ endangerment is concerning to everyone because they play an integral role in the health of the marine ecosystem. They are at the top of the food chain so without polar bears, the rest of the food chain will be affected.
Looking into the endangerment of polar bears was interesting to me initially because I love animals and I believe it is important to protect all wildlife. The more I researched, I was fascinated that the endangerment of polar bears is not only a threat to them but the entire Arctic ecosystem. The issue of climate change is the main threat to the survival of polar bears which we need to address. We can protect the arctic by reducing short-lived greenhouse pollutants including ozone and methane and well as carbon dioxide. Immediate action needs to be taken at all levels of government.
Science in Action.
Dr. Péter K. Molnár is an Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Toronto.
Dr. Peter Molnar of the University of Toronto in Ontario studies the ecology and conservation of the Arctic species, specifically the polar bear. Molnar says that polar bears have become “the poster child of climate change” as the entire Arctic is threatened by climate change. Molnar estimates when different subpopulation will decline and establishes the timing polar bears can go fasting before they will rapidly decline, He uses the predicted numbers of days without ice to determine the number of days polar bears will have to survive.