Polar bears losing crucial sea ice: Study
PARIS: Polar bears are losing life-sustaining sea ice crucial for hunting, resting and breeding in all 19 regions of the Arctic they inhabit, a study warned on Wednesday. As climate change pushes up Arctic temperatures, ice is melting earlier in spring and re-freezing later in autumn, a team of researchers said. Satellite data revealed that the total number of ice-covered days across the 19 regions declined at a rate of seven to 19 days per decade from 1979 to 2014, the researchers said. “Their dependence on sea ice means that climate warming poses the single most important threat to (polar bears’) persistence,” wrote the team. The global population of polar bears — scientific name Ursus maritimus — is estimated at about 25,000, said the study.
The bears, which have become emblematic of the ravages of global warming, spend most of their time on sheets of frozen ocean water, which melt and recede in warmer months, and then reform in winter. When the ice melts, the animals come ashore and survive on stored fat until it refreezes — a period that for some has become longer and longer. Scientists say the Arctic is warming at nearly double the global rate as a result of climate change fuelled by mankind’s burning of fossil fuels, a process that emits heat-trapping greenhouse gases. With longer iceless periods, polar bears have to swim further and further to find solid ground. Last year, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the creatures could see their numbers dwindle by nearly a third by mid-century. — AFP