Tag Archives: ice melting

Polar Bears Are Spending More Time on Land During the Summer

Polar bears are spending more time on land than ever before. To be exact, bears around the Chuchki Sea are spending a month longer on land during the summer, according to a new study.

Research wildlife biologist with the Alaska Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey and lead author Karyn Rode says:

“They are spending approximately 30 more days on land, which is pretty substantial in the summer. Where they come on land during the summer is changing because of the ice conditions…They’re either sitting, laying or standing. They aren’t moving around very much to forage,” she said. “When we look at this activity sensor, it’s incredibly low.”

The researchers analyzed data from radio collars on 103 female polar bears between 1986-1996 and compared them to data from 47 bears in 2008-2013. They found that bears now spend a month longer on land, that almost twice as many bears spend their summers on land and that more than 90% of time on land is spent resting.

So far, this has not affected the bears’ nutrition, but there is debate about whether polar bears can sustain themselves on a land-based diet. As the summer sea ice continues to melt, polar bears will likely spend more and more time onshore and, unfortunately, recent studies show that polar bears’ cannot sustain themselves during long periods of famine. In addition, more time onshore will increase the chance of conflict with humans.

Rode says:

“The results of our study are consistent with studies in other regions where polar bears have experienced substantial sea ice loss. As sea ice loss occurs, polar bears increasingly use land habitats where they have minimal to no access to their marine mammal prey and are increasingly likely to interact with humans.”

Featured image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / CC BY 2.0

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Killer Whales Will Move Into the Arctic Ocean As More Sea Ice Melts Each Summer

As the Arctic sea ice melts, it makes room for the ocean’s apex predators, killer whales, who even feed on other whales. More and more sightings of killer whales, or orcas, have been reported in the Canadian Arctic.

Killer whales are not well-adapted to the Arctic, as evidenced by their large dorsal fins. But because of climate change, they are able to access waters in the Arctic Ocean that they were unable to previously. This has raised concerns about the killer whales altering the region’s ecosystem, on top of concerns about climate change in general.

WWF Arctic species specialist Pete Ewins says:

“Receding sea ice and the resulting increase of orcas in the Arctic are ecosystem impacts we are already experiencing as a result of climate change. When new predators like orcas move in, they can change the entire ecosystem. In the face of these ever increasing, deeply concerning changes, we need leadership and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect the best interest of people, the Arctic and the entire planet.”

So far, killer whales have only ventured into the Canadian Arctic. But it’s possible they will continue to move further north, deeper into the Arctic Ocean, in the future. More research is needed to confirm their exact movements.

Photo by Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith / CC BY-SA 2.0

 
 
Featured image by Alan / CC BY 2.0