Climate Change Is Making Polar Bears Move Hungry, Research Finds

Imagine you have to walk for most of the year through ice and snow daily. Youget more hungry the distance you would cover — and also’d work up an appetite.

That sums up  the life of a bear.

Residing in the arctic Arctic, they prey on fat-rich mammals like ringed seals to sustain themselves in this environment.

And more food is now needed by polar bears than a study found.

The Mythical Creatures require 1.6 times more energy than Has Been Projected in the 1990s, researchers in the US Geological Survey, the Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, and at the University of California in Santa Cruz report in the journal “Science.”

“They will need to be grabbing a lot of seals,” Anthony Pagano, a PhD candidate at UC Santa Cruz stated.

Less sea ice makes them wander

In total, the bears would need to eat one adult ringed seal or 19 newborn seal pups to avoid starvation, the investigators state.

They presume the bears’ hunger for meals is greater than anticipated because of a lack of sea ice; which makes the bears need to roam over greater distances to find and kill prey.

As per a study by the University of Colorado, the extent of sea ice across the Arctic is diminishing at a rate of 14 percent  per decade.

The problem is that several bears can not seem to find enough food to satisfy their high energy requirements.

Five of those nine bears that were analyzed in the study lost weight, amounting to about 10%  of the body mass during the eight- .

“Increases in movement (…)  mediated by the reduction of sea ice habitat are likely to have adverse (…)  effects on polar bear reproductive success, and ultimately, their populations,” the investigators conclude.

Polar bears in a world

The fact that climate change may hit on polar bears challenging is not a surprise.

Last year, a movie of a dying bear eating styrofoam and rummaging in trash, assumed to be starving, went viral on media. That bear proven to have been ill.

But evaporating sea ice makes the predators’ search for seals more difficult.

It was once thought that polar bears could go into a sort of walking hibernating state  when no food is decreasing their levels and thus their energy requirements. This assumption was found not to be true.

“Two-thirds of this planet’s polar bears could perish out by 2050,” warns WWF, demanding an immediate decline in greenhouse gas emissions so that the bears can stand a chance of survival.

As stated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are roughly 26,000 polar bears left. The species is categorized as “vulnerable” At the U.S., it is regarded as a threatened species.

IUCN experts estimate that the population could reduce by 30 to 50%  when the reduction of sea ice continues.

Observing bears’ hunting successes close up

How did Pagano and his coworkers prove that it is tougher for bears to locate food at a world with less sea ice hockey? The investigators  noticed that the bears and went there.

“We’ve been documenting declines in polar bear survival levels, body condition, and population numbers over the last ten years,” Pagano said. “This study identifies the mechanisms which are forcing those declines by taking a look at the actual energy needs of polar bears and how often they’re able to catch seals.”

They observed the bears over three years for discreet time periods and collared nine female bears with a GPS video camera around the sea ice of the Beaufort Sea in Alaska.

The GPS told the distances that the bears wandered to them, if the bears were successful in killing and eating prey, along with the camera captured.

To assess the animals’ energy requirements, the investigators injected them with a tracable (nonradioactive)  element.

By comparing the bears’ blood samples before and afterwards, they can figure out the amount of carbon dioxide consequently its rate, and that the animal had generated.

“A growing proportion of bears cannot meet their energy demands,” the authors concluded.

Still hope

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the end for polar bears, while the study might be bad news, remarks Jörns Fickel, a evolution geneticist in the Leibniz institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin.

“Nobody can conclude from the analysis that polar bears will get extinct,” he tells DW. “I am still hopeful that the species will make it.”

From an evolutionary perspective, a reduction in body fat in some animals doesn’t necessarily signify that the entire number of polar bears will decline, Fickel stresses.

“In a population, there are always people who deal better or worse without any modifications.”

Polar bears are evolutionary animals: the species evolved long ago as some 600,000 decadesago

Fickel points out that the species has witnessed many warmer periods during their presence, and they might be able to adapt to a warmer world —  as long as there is a healthy seal people, that’s.

But still, “when I see pictures of large canning blocks breaking off and the sea ice is retreating, I get worried,” Fickel admits.

As a scientist, he worries that we should not move off of gut feelings, but rather   dependable information — “and for polar bears, people (data)  aren’t there yet.”

Don’t give up on the polar bear.