Polar bears are a species of bear that natively live and are adapted to the Arctic Circle. However, the population of the magnificent creature is rapidly declining, with the World Wide Fund for Nature estimating that only 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears are left in the world. A recent study (published in Nature) led by the University of Toronto estimates that the hyper carnivorous bear could be starved into extinction by the year 2100.
This is all due to the melting of Arctic sea ice. Global warming has put Arctic sea ice declination at about 12.85 percent per decade, according to NASA. This makes it very difficult for polar bears to find food. Polar bears also depend on the same ice for their habitat.
“Here, we establish the likely nature, timing and order of future demographic impacts by estimating the threshold numbers of days that polar bears can fast before cub recruitment and/or adult survival are impacted and decline rapidly.”
The study doesn’t just mention the effects of climate change on polar bears. Research indicates that the survival of all high-Arctic subpopulations, except for a few, will be doubtful by the year 2100, ABC News reports. It is also mentioned that “moderate emissions mitigation” might help delay the extinction for some time, but it will take massive effort to completely stop it.
“Land-based feeding is unlikely to occur at scales that shift the timelines for recruitment and survival declines by more than a few years, because foods that meet the energy demands of polar bears are largely unavailable on land,” the study said, noting that the impact was already being felt by some polar bear populations.
With rising temperatures, polar bears might be forced to move towards land, changing their hunting and feeding habits. The effects of such short term change is unknown, as human-fueled climate change is progressing too fast for normal, natural evolution. This puts polar bears at a difficult position from a survival standpoint.
Last year, Novaya Zemlya (an archipelago in Russia’s arctic region) was overrun by dozens of hungry polar bears. These polar bears were forced to move into human settlements away from the ice as they were unable to hunt for their natural source of food. Novaya Zemlya ended up declaring a state of emergency. Climate change is a very serious issue and it could end up affecting all species on this planet in drastic ways.
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