Polar Bears Are Suffering Due to Climate Change

Scientists have developed a new study, showing the impact of climate change on polar bears. The research shows that the female polar bears that roam around the springtime sea ice experience dangerous weight swings. Some of them even lose more than 10% of their body mass in only one week. This is tragic. The ambitious study on polar bears in Alaska indicates that their metabolic rate is 1.6 times greater than scientists have thought.

Anthony Pagano is a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage. He indicates that their bodies burn a lot of energy very fast and that they need to feed on a blueberry adult ringed seal every 10 to 12 days in order to maintain their weight. The new research was published today, on February 2 in the journal Science. Scientists received the help of camera-collar vlogs. This represents a bear’s-eye view of these animals’ lifestyle secrets and diet.

Nevertheless, the study reveals the numbers that rely only on the basic needs of polar bears. The lives of these creatures are strictly connected to the annual shrinkage and spread of Arctic sea ice. Pagano indicates that the warming climate has severely affected their habitat. Due to climate change, the warming triggered the annual ice minimum to become thinner by about 14% per decade.

The ice layers become even thinner

This phenomenon raises worries when it comes to the populations of polar bears. They hunt the fat-rich seals which breed and feed around the ice. Since the ice shrinks and becomes thinner, the habitat of seals is in great danger. Therefore, the bears starve because they are unable to find enough food.

Pagano together with his colleagues used some helicopters to search for polar bears in the Beaufort Sea, off the Alaska coast. Researchers were able to spot some female bears, and they decided to fit them with camera collars. The collar videos indicated that almost all seal hunts represent ambushes. Most of the times, a bear lurks near a hole in the ice, waiting for a seal to burst up, taking a gulp of air. That is the moment when they attack.

These videos also showed some early records of the breeding season. The collar videos showed what courtship looks like among polar bears. Pagano claims that in most situations males harass females until they submit. Regarding the dreadful weather and living conditions, researchers have decided to inject each of the bears they have found with a dose of water containing extra neutrons in both the oxygen and hydrogen atoms.

Then, about 8 to 11 days later, the team of researchers caught one of the bears in revealing what was left of the altered atoms. They have only found some lower traces of the special form of oxygen. This indicated that the chemistry of the polar bear’s body had been really active. Therefore, the bear exhaled lots of carbon dioxide. The altered form of hydrogen they have injected allowed them to correct results for oxygen atoms that were lost in H2O.

Polar bears are starving to death

A very thin polar bear

Climate change has affected Alaska so bad that polar bears can barely find any food since seals’ habitat is diminishing.

Researchers have gathered carbon dioxide date from nine females. In this way, they were able to calculate the field metabolic rates for polar bears that went about their springtime lives. Hence, the team of researchers has revealed that female polar bears need to eat more than 12,000 kilocalories per day in order to maintain their weight.

This estimate adds about 4,600 kilocalories per day to the old estimate that scientists used before. However, they have revealed that it is not enough for a polar bear to maintain its weight. In order to survive lean times, a polar bear needs to pack some extra weight in spring.

John Whiteman is a physiological ecologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He argues that researchers would need to make similar metabolic measurements for other seasons as well in order to obtain a broader view regarding the energy needs of a polar bear.

This could help them find out how much does the metabolism of a bear drop when it feeds on little food. In this way, scientists will be able to find a solution for the bears and protect them during hard times like this. Scientists have also used temperature loggers to establish metabolic rates. Hence, scientists discovered a gradual decline in metabolic rates during summer. That is the season when it is tougher for them to find food. However, so far winter metabolic rates are a complete mystery.

Climate change affects the habitat of seals

Sabrina Tartu is an ecotoxicologist at the Norwegian Polar Institute, Tromso. She co-authored a study in 2017 revealing that toxic pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls can gather up in polar bear fat. She argues that these pollutants can severely impact bears’ health, disrupting their metabolic rates. Not only human-related activities that trigger climate change affect polar bears but pollution as well.

Climate change has slowly affected the whole planet, reaching all the areas on the globe and disrupting the habitats of thousands of animal species. The high temperatures have triggered massive meltdowns in Alaska and Antarctica, jeopardizing the life of the creatures living there. The ice which continues to melt slowly diminishes the habitat of seals. This indirectly affects the lifestyle of polar bears that can no longer hunt seals.

It is a never-ending cycle where numerous animals suffer because of global warming. The pollutants human activities release in the atmosphere has also reached to affect even the most remote parts of the globe. Polar bears are not only affected by human-related climate change, but also by human-related pollution. Their lives are in danger as the ice gets thinner, the food is harder to find, and their metabolism works faster.

You May Also Want To Read:

Global Warming Triggered a Mini Ice Age in the Past

Polar Ice Caps Melting: (Problems and Solutions)

Arctic Ice Melting Faster than We Thought

Summing up

Global warming yielding incredibly high temperatures has severely impacted Alaska. Numerous polar bears are starving to death due to the thin ice which impairs their hunting rituals. They usually feed on seals which now have a diminished habitat. Therefore, polar bears suffer as well, desperately trying to find some food and survive this winter.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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