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Want to save polar bears? Follow the ice

ine mammals. Another threat to the bears is the unpredictability of the melting of the sea ice away from the coast regions that bears shift to in the warmest parts of the year. Bears that make it to shore may be there for increasingly longer periods of time without food as the sea ice becomes more distant and inaccessible.

The main question for conservationists is which of the existing 18 populations of polar bears occurring on two continents and one sub-continent stand the best chance of surviving as the polar cap shrinks in size. To that end, the project will utilize remote sensing satellite imagery on sea ice extent and concentration since 1978 to form a picture of polar bear habitat history as well as where this habitat most likely remain in the future under global warming projections. When combined with meteorological data, the researchers hope to distinguish short-term, seasonal effects and large scale phenomena such as the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations from the long-term global warming trends that threaten the Arctic’s mega-fauna.

Bergen will work with polar bear researchers from the United States Geological Service (USGS).

"This will be the first distribution wide study on the ecological needs of polar bears in the context of global warming," said Dr. Gary Tabor, director of WCS’ North America Program. "This will allow us to understand past studies on the species in relation to other populations, and will inform important management activities such as designating protected areas for polar bears and their prey species."

The first step of the new program will entail a workshop involving scientists, polar bear experts, and relevant organizations to provide input on the initial direction of the project. Following steps will include synthesizing available and subsequent data into the GIS platform, which can then be used to generate the trends and recommended conservation actions. Findings will be presented in
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Source:Wildlife Conservation Society


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