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Consequences of Climate Change: Polar Bear Population Shrinking Due to Arctic Sea Ice Melt

Sep 26, 2016 05:29 AM EDT
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Arctic ice on record low

Alert! The melting sea ice in the Arctic is leaving polar bears hungry and their population dwindling in numbers.

According to a report from Earth Sky, polar bears have taken the most drastic hit from the melting Arctic sea ice due to climate change. Polar bears mainly get fat and nutrients from eating seals, and the ice in the Arctic has greatly helped these slow-moving bears to catch the much-faster seals by ambushing the latter through the ice.

However, as the Arctic sea ice continues to melt at drastic speed, polar bears will have a hard time catching seals because they can't outswim the animals.

A study published in the journal The Cryosphere reveals that early sea ice melt has consistently been happening across all polar bear regions in the arctic.

"These spring and fall transitions bound the period when there is good ice habitat available for bears to feed. Those periods are also tied to the breeding season when bears find mates, and when females come out of their maternity dens with very small cubs and haven’t eaten for months," said co-author Kristin Laidre of the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center.

Laidre also stressed the importance of sea ice as the "platform for life" for polar bears as this is where they hunt food for survival.

The study also revealed that between 1979 and 2014, the number of days covered with ice have declined at a rate of seven to 19 days. Also, it was found that the sea ice concentration during summer fell from 1 to 9 percent per decade.

“We expect that if the trends continue, compared with today, polar bears will experience another six to seven weeks of ice-free periods by mid-century,” co-author Harry Stern, a researcher with the UW’s Polar Science Center, told UW Today.

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