Climate Change Effect on Polar Bears

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Climate Change Effects on Artic Polar Bears
Kenneth Halvorsen
COM/156
09/30/2012
Jocelyn Henson

Climate Change Effects on Artic Polar Bears

Climate warming and ecological changes have caused a significant threat to the declining population of polar bears in the Arctic which is affecting human habitats

Polar bears, the largest of the terrestrial carnivores, live on the Arctic ice for the majority of the year. The icy habitat allows polar bears to hunt for their primary prey - seals. The powerful species’s survival completely depends on their ability to use ice for feeding and breeding. Some of the highest degrees of global warming effects have been on the polar regions of the world. Scientists around the globe are in agreement that such effects of greenhouse gases produced mainly through human induced emissions have resulted in an increase of the earth’s surface temperature. The continued denial concerning global warming could result in the complete polar bear extinction. Unquestionably, the beautiful species’s future depends on the protection of the arctic environment: its pollution levels, indigenous peoples hunt and total loss of ice. So, what should be done, if anything, to save the polar bear habitat? To begin analyzing the issue, let’s first discuss some of the delicate specifics of polar bear habitat and environment requirements which are critical for survival. Polar bears, as the largest of the bear family, must sustain enough food and accumulate enough body fat to keep those alive during the ice free period. They need to consume at least five pounds of seal blubber per day to stay healthy. Also, as they are the largest land predator in the world, bears live on the ice in locations where it is viable to hunt for seals which are their primary prey. Yet, they will also hunt Artic fox. They have been known to eat birds, reindeer, rodents, fish, or even the carcass of a dead whale. Strong swimmers, the bears roam over the vast expanses of sea ice while paddling with their front legs and using their rear legs as a ruder hunting for ringed seals, bearded seal, and occasionally beluga whales and even walrus. Polar bears have no natural predator and have no fear of man which makes things dangerous for both. There are few animals that will attack a man unprovoked yet, the polar bear is one that will actually hunt down humans and eat them. The problem begins where studies show that climate warming is creating a much shorter duration of time for sea ice and, therefore, is extending a later freezing in fall as well as early ice break-ups during summer. These changing conditions have shown seal depletion and a decline in the polar bears population. The average annual extend of ice has exceeded 1 million square kilometers. With over 40 percent decrease within the past 30 years of the ice coverage the population of polar bears has been substantially threatened (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, 2008). This and other climate change factors have affected the species’s food supply chain. Polar bears population growth in general is extremely slow and fluctuates in response to natural factors, the major one of which is their prey ability. The bears need to maintain a high level of body fat, especially for the females in order to have healthy cubs. Nutritionally stressed, the mothers are being greatly affected by the rising sea levels in the marine regions with the most pronounced temperature increases. An increase in polar bear sightings have been reported near human settlements during the open water period in recent years. For example, Inuit hunters have reported an increase in bear population because of an increase in sightings near their villages. This has led to more hunting tags issued. Such observations are misleading and the increased sightings should be related to the fact that the bears are seeking an alternative food source. Additionally, offshore drilling for oil and shipping have threatened polar bears...
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