Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Polar bear headed for extinction, says University of Alberta scientist


Unless the pace of global warming is abated, polar bears could disappear within 100 years, says a University of Alberta expert in Arctic ecosystems.

While it has been known for some time that the polar bear is in trouble, new research shows that Arctic ice--the polar bear’s primary habitat--is melting much faster than scientists had believed, says U of A biologist Dr. Andrew Derocher.

"The climate predictions coming out are showing massive changes in sea-ice distribution," said Derocher, who follows polar bears to see how they adapt to changing conditions. If the predictions are correct, he says, "we’ll certainly lose polar bears in a lot of areas where we currently have them." Ice conditions in the Beaufort Sea, for example, are already changing dramatically.

The world’s largest terrestrial carnivores, polar bears rely on sea ice to survive, using it to pass between forest dens and hunting grounds where they prey on seals. There are about 15,000 polar bears in northern Canada, accounting for about two-thirds of the world’s total population.

Derocher shared his views Jan. 6 at a symposium on Arctic biology in Toronto. It was the biggest gathering of Canadian Arctic biologists in more than a decade, says co-chair Dr. David Hik, also of the U of A. Many of the talks addressed the impact of climate change on northern ecosystems.

Derocher says if global warming continues unchecked, some remnant populations of polar bears may manage to hang on in the high Canadian archipelago or on permanent polar ice at very high latitudes. But the potential for extinction is still a cause for concern: "You don’t have to be a polar scientist to see that if you take away all the sea ice, you don’t have polar bears any more."

To make matters worse, sea-ice melting is accelerated by "positive feedback loops." Sea ice acts as a reflector of solar energy, but when the ice disappears, the ocean absorbs that heat energy, which in turn prevents ice from freezing.

"Once climate warming initiates, you get into a self-warming cycle," said Derocher, who earned international renown as a polar bear and northern studies expert at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromso before returning to the University of Alberta, where he completed his doctorate. "That’s why the urgency on the issue for polar bears now."

He adds that it is possible a warmer climate will improve polar bear and seal habitats in the short term, mainly in higher latitudes where ice is too thick for seal hunting. But these areas are small, he says, and will only support a fraction of the bear population.

Polar bears can tolerate some environmental variation from year to year, foregoing reproduction in any given year if conditions are poor." With too much variation, however, reproduction will fall off dramatically, and populations will quickly decline. Scientists have no evidence yet of a drop in polar bear populations, but body weights and reproductive rates of bears in the Hudson Bay are on the decline," said Derocher.

Hik says there is also new research looking at the harmful effect of drought-related forest fires on polar bear dens, which are built in mature forests.

"When you burn the forest down, it blackens the earth, and these dens burrowed into the permafrost collapse," said Hik. "Many of them are created over centuries by successive generations of bears scraping deeper and deeper in." The area around Churchill, Manitoba is one such area that has been losing these dens.

The U of A in Edmonton, Alberta is one of Canada’s premier teaching and research universities serving more than 30,000 students with 6,000 faculty and staff. It continues to lead the country with the most 3M Teaching Fellows, Canada’s only national award recognizing teaching excellence.

Phoebe Dey | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>