No white bears to the year 2100?
In some regions, the numbers of animals are already in a downward spiral, partly due to the decreasing pack ice. As a result, polar bears have to spend a longer time on land and have less time to hunt seals. Scientists report this in Nature Climate Change, a journal about research into the effects of climate change.
The carnivore that lives in the Arctic can fast for months, especially in the summer when the pack ice melts. But with global warming, which is going twice as fast in the Arctic, the period without ice is getting longer. Unable to find any other food source as rich as the seals in their area, more and more hungry bears are venturing far beyond their territory, near inhabited areas.
Their declining body weight undermines their chances of surviving the Arctic winters without food, the scientists said. Young animals in particular have less fat reserves and do not survive this type of forced fasting periods.
“If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the same rate, declining reproductive rates and survival rates will jeopardize the survival of the population by 2100,” the researchers conclude.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says it is very shocked.
“It takes a while, because what we feared for some time is now scientifically substantiated even more precisely. There will be a lot less polar bears in the future than now. But it is not too late: if we stop emissions now, the damage will remain somewhat limited and we are estimated to be able to retain more than 50 percent of the sea ice surface, ”says Gert Polet, polar bear expert.