Impacts of Sea Ice Loss on Polar Bear Diet, Prey Availability, Foraging Behaviors, and Human-Bear Interactions in the Arctic
Date of Graduation
Project/Capstone - Global access
Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)
College of Arts and Sciences
Anthropogenic-induced climate change has warmed the Arctic 2-3 times faster than the rest of the world, causing sea ice declines that introduce challenges for specialist species, such as polar bears, in adapting to rapid environmental changes. Comparative and quantitative analyses of three Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulations were used to determine the impacts of sea ice loss on polar bear diet, prey availability, foraging behaviors, and human-bear interactions in the Arctic. The study reveal that Hudson Bay polar bears experience the most severe impacts from sea ice declines, resulting in a 30% population decline. Due to their smaller body size, high energetic demands to support pregnancy, and dependency of their young, adult female polar bears with cubs are the most at risk of sea ice loss due to dietary restrictions. Longer ice-free periods force fasting bears to expend more energy foraging for suboptimal terrestrial resources, resulting in an energetic imbalance. Indigenous communities not only experience increasingly dangerous and frequent bear encounters in town, but also reduced socioeconomic gains from declining polar bear numbers. Declines in polar bear numbers have prompted the bears to be listed and managed under science-based regimes, reducing indigenous subsistence hunting activities and creating clashes of interests between scientific and indigenous communities. Integration and increased understanding of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), habitat monitoring, and habitat protection is needed for future polar bear management to succeed. However, the foremost solution in halting polar bear extirpation is global aggressive, collaborative, and proactive greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction.
Chen, Jasmin, "Impacts of Sea Ice Loss on Polar Bear Diet, Prey Availability, Foraging Behaviors, and Human-Bear Interactions in the Arctic" (2022). Master's Projects and Capstones. 1350.
Animal Sciences Commons, Animal Studies Commons, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology Commons