As the year-round presence of sea ice wanes in the Arctic, Polar Bears face significant challenges. These large predators depend on the presence of sea ice for habitat and hunting grounds.
Primarily hunters of seals, Polar Bears face significant threats due to Climate change. Indeed, predictions showing that yearlong polar ice cover may disappear by 2050 ring particularly ominous for Polar Bears.
However, a recent study showing the strategies that Polar Bears used to survive the last period of shrinking glacial coverage offers a glimmer of hope.
The study, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, uses fossil evidence to analyze Polar Bears’ response during the last period of severe ice loss.
During this time, fossil remains indicate that polar bears sought refuge in places that remained colder than surrounding areas.
Such refuges included areas near the East Siberian Sea, northern Greenland, and the Canadian archipelago.
Although these areas remained cooler than others, scientists believe it is likely that Polar Bears were forced to adapt their habits to survive the warmer temperatures.
They likely hunted at seal breeding grounds. Fossilized seal remains Support this conclusion.
However, seal populations are also facing steep declines. It is unclear if Polar Bears will be able to successfully pivot to other food sources.
Climate change and global warming trends make it likely that Polar Bears will again be forced to seek out colder refuges.
Their ability to find habitable spaces in Siberia and Canada may be key to the species’ survival. Unfortunately, Climate change threatens these areas as well. Protecting colder refuges for Polar Bears may be key to ensuring that these, and other species, survive.
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This article by Willow Lynn was first published by One Green Planet on 10 October 2023. Image Credit :Alexey Seafarer/Shutterstock.