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Consequences of Climate Change: Polar Bears to have Shorter Hunting, Breeding Season, NASA Says

Sep 15, 2016 04:55 AM EDT
Polar Bears At San Francisco Zoo Get 10 Tons Of Fresh Snow
Polar bears are threatened by melting sea ice. Shorter seasons means there will be shorter period for polar bears to hunt and breed.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Global warming has demonstrated its capacity to influence many industries on Earth such as coffee farming, coral reef growth and it has even instigated sea level rise. However, there are more pressing effects that need immediate solution. According to NASA, polar bears now have a shorter season to hunt and breed due to melting sea ice and shorter seasons.

The ice caps in the Arctic sea are one of the most visible measures of climate change. But the melting sea ice does not only signal the result of global warming, for polar bears, this means worse. The decline in the Arctic sea-ice level every year directly affects polar bears because they are heavily dependent on sea ice when hunting and breeding.

NASA funded a study with the University of Washington researchers to find a trend toward ice melt during spring and ice growth in the fall. The study covered 19 polar bear subpopulations. Based on their findings, the current trend can "negatively impact" polar bears' ability to hunt and breed.

The study was published in the journal The Cryosphere, the first study to correlate sea ice changes to polar bear subpopulation in the Arctic region. "This study shows declining sea ice for all subpopulations of polar bears," co-author Harry Stern, a researcher with the University of Washington's Polar Science Center said in a statement.

The melting and freezing of sea ice directly affect polar bears in a bad way since the frozen season is now shorter, this means they have lesser time to hunt or to find a mate. This is true because polar bears does not swim as good as their prey, so they used sea ice when hunting. They also rely on ice when traveling for greater distance instead of swimming.

The analysis shows that the critical timing of the sea ice break-up and sea ice freeze-up is changing in all areas in a direction that is harmful to polar bears. Currently, the shorter frozen season is already threatening the hunting and breeding patterns of polar bears.

"Sea ice really is their platform for life," co-author Kristin Laidre, a researcher at the University of Washington Polar Science Center said in a press release. "They are capable of existing on land for part of the year, but the sea ice is where they obtain their main prey," Laidre added.

The study used 35 years worth of data. The study greatly alarmed conservationists because the hunting and breeding seasons of polar bears were greatly affected by abrupt melting of sea ice. What bothers scientists more is the fact that the trend seems "linear" and no signs of it improving yet.

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