We all know the story of how greenhouse gases are melting the Arctic sea ice. In fact this year the area covered by sea ice was at it's second lowest since 1979. This is measured by satellite. The warming of the Arctic is accelerating at a faster rate than in the lower latitudes due to heavy accumulation of greenhouse gases and the melting of sea ice which increases the effect.

And we have all heard of how the polar bears are having to swim for many more miles to find food and habitat because of this accelerated ice melting. Which is tragic in and of itself. Polar bears are not aquatic animals but rather spend most of their time on the ice floes or land where they hunt, feed and give birth. A study was done recently in the last decade where female polar bears were fitted with GPS collars and tracked by satellite over a period of 6 years. What was found was that there were occasions where polar bears were having to swim up to more than 30 miles at a time between ice floes to find food .

But recently a new study has found an additional tragic effect of the melting sea ice. It was found that of the polar bears that were mothers almost half of them lost their babies due to the fact that the babies could not survive the long distance swims with their mothers.
This was because of a couple of factors. Polar bear cubs have less body fat than their mothers and they were not able to survive the extreme cold of the arctic waters. The second reason was that because they were leaner they were not as buoyant as their mothers and could not keep their heads above the rough sea waves. Polar bears are like humans in that they cannot close off their nasal passages so if they cannot keep their heads above water they will drown.

During the Bush administration Polar bears were listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species. In June of this year, that protection was upheld in a legal challenge and just this month, Canada has listed the Polar bear as a species at risk. These listings are important to help the Polar bear survive but it is going to take a lot more effort on the part of everyone to reduce the world's carbon dioxide emissions and stop the melting of sea ice. Without a collaborative effort in decreasing the use of fossil fuels worldwide, the Polar bears in the arctic might soon become a species from the past as they also head for extinction.

Photo by Keenpress (Flickr)

Responses to "Polar bear cubs are another casualty of the melting Arctic sea ice"

  1. FulviaChristine says:

    This just such devastating news !

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