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Polar Bears Will Be Gone Before 2100, Say Experts

Nov 28, 2014 02:18 PM EST
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In an estimated six decades polar bears may not have any children at all. That's at least according to a recent study that estimates that by 2075, habitat reduction will have led to the utter elimination of adequate raising grounds for polar bear young, dooming the species.

The study, recently published in the journal PLOS One, details how the world's remaining 20,000 polar bears may be scrubbed from the Earth by 2100 if climate change and its causes remain "business as usual" for the Arctic.

This shouldn't exactly come as a surprise. Climatologists and ecologists have been discussing the doom polar bears face for some time now, but the fact that statistics are sure enough to set a date for extinction is still troubling.

What's worse, this projection was made after researchers assessed the current rate of cub and habitat loss in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago - a vast wilderness home to a quarter of the estimated global population of polar bears.

Researcher Andre Derocher of the University of Alberta told New Scientist that this is what makes their results most troubling, as the archipelago was thought to be one of the few remaining regions in the world where the bears had a decent chance at survival.

"This paints a very depressing picture," he said.

The study describes how conditions of long ice-free periods are becoming more and more common in the region, leading to more bear starvations every year, especially for the young and elderly. Very soon, Derocher and his team estimates, access to the ice flats where these bears hunt will be so limited that less than half of all birthed cubs will make it to adulthood. Worse, mothers may die too, starving in an attempt to keep their children fed.

Still, the researchers are quick to add that these estimates only remain accurate if climate change conditions remain "business as usual" or worsen in the coming years. If enough mitigation work is done, or if an unexpected change occurs, the bears might have more time.

However, other researchers have estimated that Arctic sea ice may disappear entirely by the end of the century. Alaskan polar bear populations, one of the most accurately tracked of the species, was also seen to plummet by a stunning 40 percent in the last decade alone - driven by ice loss and starvation.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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