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Polar bears no longer on 'thin ice': researchers say polar bears could face brighter future

tened species.

The 2007 study projected that about two-thirds of the roughly 25,000 polar bears in the world would disappear by mid-century because of the effects of climate change and the ice melting in the Arctic. Now, in the December 2010 Nature study, Marcot and his colleagues learned that decline of the bear could be mitigated if greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.

These findings may have implications for citizens and natural resource managers in the Pacific Northwest working to manage resources for a warming climate, particularly in high mountain areas.

For the past several years Marcot has collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others on studies examining the impacts of climate change on wildlife and the environment.

The most recent study published in Nature, "Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Can Reduce Sea-ice Loss and Increase Polar Bear Persistence," was coauthored by Amstrup; Eric DeWeaver, National Science Foundation; David Douglas, U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center; Marcot; George Durner, U.S. Geological Survey; Cecilia Bitz, University of Washington; and David Bailey, National Center for Atmospheric Research, issue of Nature. It appears online at www

The study's key findings says Marcot are:

  • The results of modeling regional polar bear populations indicate a potentially brighter future for the species if global greenhouse gas concentrations can be kept under control at levels less than those expected under current conditions.

  • Sea ice habitat for polar bears will likely not face a "tipping point" of sudden catastrophic loss over the 21st century, particularly under a mitigation scenario to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.


Contact: Sherri Richardson Dodge
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station

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