A study predicts polar bears will go extinct by the end of this century unless more efforts are taken to fight climate change.
Some of the populations have already reached their limits due to the Arctic sea ice shrinks. They rely on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean to hunt for seals for their survival.
Animals are forced to walk long distances or to the shore in search of food when the ice creaks up, this makes it difficult for them to find food and feed their cubs.
Dr. Peter Molnar of the University of Toronto said, “The bear has become the poster child of climate change.”
“Polar bears are already sitting at the top of the world; if the ice goes, they have no place to go,” he said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed polar bears as vulnerable to extinction citing climate change as a key reason.
The new study, published in Nature Climat Change, puts a timeline on when this might happen.
By modelling the energy use of polar bears, the researchers were able to calculate their endurance limits.
Dr. Steven Amstrup, the chief scientist of Polar Bears International, who was also involved in the study, told BBC News: “What we’ve shown is that, first, we’ll lose the survival of cubs, so cubs will be born but the females won’t have enough body fat to produce milk to bring them along through the ice-free season.
“Any of us know that we can only go without food for so long,” he added, “that’s a biological reality for all species”.
Researchers have predicted when these thresholds will be met in various parts of the Arctic. It might have happened already in some portions where bears live, they said.
“Showing how imminent the threat is for different polar bear populations is another reminder that we must act now to head off the worst of future problems faced by us all,” said Dr. Amstrup.
“The trajectory we’re on now is not a good one, but if society gets its act together, we have time to save polar bears. And if we do, we will benefit the rest of life on Earth, including ourselves.”
The study found it’s likely that a few polar bear populations will go extinct by 2100 under a high-pressure greenhouse gas emission scenario.
Sea ice is frozen seawater that floats on the surface of the ocean. It forms and melts with the polar seasons. It is vital for polar bears, seals, and walruses for their survival.
The sea ice in the Arctic that stays longer than a year has been declining at a date of about 13% each decade since the satellite records began in the late 1970s.
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