Climate change has started to affect our lives more than ever, and its negative effects on animals like polar bears, penguins, and seals are vital. Even though there are various studies to minimize the impacts of climate change, there still are not any valid solutions. We often see photos of polar bears stranded on sea ice to represent the detrimental impacts of climate change on the habitats of animals. Well, this time scientists found out that a group of polar bears in southeast Greenland has adapted their hunting practices, which is the most important pattern that gives hope for the extended survival of species, to climate change.
Polar bears’ single habitat of living is the seaside. Polar bears live in 19 different seaside regions across the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland/Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States. Over the years, all the populations of polar bears have faced some ice loss. This is the primary threat to the number of polar bears and all of the creatures who live in colder regions. According to the Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), polar bears are classified as “vulnerable”, which indicates that they have a high risk of extinction.
Polar bears feed on ringed seals that live on the ice edge, and they gain two-thirds of the energy that they need for the entire year. Because of the climate change and therefore the ice loss, polar bears’ time to hunt decreased, which led them to go without food for a longer time. There are other effects of climate change on polar bears too. With the increase in temperature, polar bears’ risk of exposure to diseases has increased. Warm weather also causes dens, which are the temporary winter shelters that female bears build to give birth and protect their young, to collapse.
On the other hand, the new population, which scientists discovered in southeast Greenland, gives hope to scientists because their lineage might persist in the future. While polar bears in the Arctic rely on icebergs that form in the ocean as launch points to hunt seals, they started to struggle while hunting because of climate change, which led them to starve. However, the newly found group of polar bears have been living in a sub-Arctic zone of Greenland for hundreds of years.
Some of the bears live for years inside one fiord. By contrast, polar bears that live further north can roam forty kilometers over a few days. These bears, which scientists discovered, managed to live under harsh conditions caused by climate change. They experience an ice-free period of more than 250 days every year. Polar bears can fast for long periods, but they are believed to need to eat after 100 to 180 days to survive. The bears in Greenland have adapted by fishing for ringed seals, which is their main prey, at the edge of glaciers that meet the sea. This suggests that marine-terminating glaciers, although of limited availability, may serve as previously unrecognized climate refugia, the authors write. Arctic bears now move to land when the sea-ice season ends or head further north.
In conclusion, polar bears have been facing the dangerous conditions of climate change for years. A lot of scientists are working for them to be safe and healthy. So, the news of a group of isolated bears’ adaptation to climate change gave them hope. They believe that this is an important development for overcoming their extinction, at least for a while.
"Can Polar Bears Adapt to Climate Change? Here Is One Hopeful Sign." Times Live, www.timeslive.co.za/news/sci-tech/2022-06-20-can-polar-bears-adapt-to-climate-change-here-is-one-hopeful-sign/.
"Polar Bears and Climate Change: What Does the Science Say?" CarbonBrief, www.carbonbrief.org/polar-bears-and-climate-change-what-does-the-science-say/.