February 21, 2018

Polar Bears Starving Due to Climate Change, Researchers Confirm

02 February 2018, 09:33 | Rex Hubbard

Polar bears finding it harder to catch enough seals to meet energy demands

Polar bears find it hard to catch enough food, even in the best hunting season

However, the abundance of sea ice across the Arctic is decreasing at a rate of 14 percent per decade, which is likely reducing polar bears' access to their prey.

Researchers have been studying bears in the Beaufort Sea since the 1980s and studies have shown the population there has decreased by some 40 percent during the last decade.

"They need to be catching a lot of seals", Anthony Pagano, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said in a statement.

The remote location has made it hard for scientists to study the bears' movement and activities until now.

"For this study we're not looking at trends", Pagano said.

Polar bear wearing Global Positioning System collar on sea ice.

Back in 1973, when the five Arctic states first agreed to manage polar bears, the largest threat to polar bears was over-hunting, so their first agreement was mainly directed towards harvesting-management programs and protected areas. But other oxygen atoms would leave in the form of exhaled carbon dioxide (because water and carbon dioxide can easily trade oxygen atoms in the blood stream).

Polar bears wait for their prey to come to them.

The bears' metabolic rate was more the 50 per cent higher than previous studies had suggested. That may be partly because the carnivores typically spend more energy than animals with herbivorous or mixed diets, pointed out John P. Whiteman of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who was not involved in the study.

The Arctic is warming twice as rapidly as the global average, diminishing the sea ice that polar bears rely upon for food and forcing many to embark from water on to land where they desperately forage for goose eggs or rubbish from bins in far-flung towns. Getting stuck on land simply wouldn't keep these apex predators alive.

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The report estimates that a solitary female polar bear on spring ice would "need to eat one adult ringed seal, three subadult ringed seals or 19 newborn ringed seals every 10 to 12 days".

"Spring is the pupping season for the seals", said Dr. Bechshoft.

"However", the authors wrote, "this rate of consumption would be necessary simply to energetically break even".

Anthony Pagano, USGS Research Wildlife Biologist, said: 'It's really quite fascinating to learn the basic behaviours of these animals and how they're using the sea-ice environment, and how dynamic the sea-ice environment is and how their behaviour might change from year to year based on the sea ice conditions that they're experiencing'.

A polar bear tests the strength of thin sea ice.

The study published in Thursday's journal Science had been counducted on those white giants during the month of April and finds that shrinking of ice is causing the weight lose of those bears which is not good for them. Thanks to the metabolic rates documented in the new findings, he added, "these costs can now be modeled more precisely".

A newly released study examines the foraging habits and feeding requirements of the Arctic's greatest predator, which are hard to study.

Five of the nine bears that were examined in the study lost weight, amounting to approximately 10% of their body mass during the eight- to 11-day period. Considering that these animals typically weigh in around 400 pounds at this time of year, that's a lot of weight to lose so quickly.

"Arctic communities are not prepared to deal with such a spill, and when it happens the contaminants will have long-term impacts on important habitat for wildlife, including polar bears, whales and fish", said Paul Crowley, vice president of Arctic conservation for WWF-Canada, in a scorecard that included nation-by-nation evaluations in areas such as management of human and polar bear conflict.

The huge glacial ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are reacting more slowly to the warming atmosphere and oceans but scientists are watching them closely as they will heavily influence sea level rise if there's significant melting.

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