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The loss of sea ice habitat from climate change is the biggest threat to the survival of polar bears.Other key threats include polar bear-human conflicts, unsustainable hunting and industrial impacts.
Scientists have divided the total polar bear population into 19 units or subpopulations.
Of those, the latest data from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group show that one subpopulation is in decline (Southern Beaufort Sea) and that there is a high estimated risk of future decline due to climate change and data deficiency.
Polar bears depend on sea ice as a platform from which to hunt seals, rest and breed.
The summer sea ice has been decreasing in size for decades and melting for longer periods of time.
As Arctic ice melts, polar bears are affected by increased shipping activities and a rise in opportunities for oil and gas development.
As climate change forces polar bears to spend longer time onshore, they come in contact more often with Arctic coastal communities and others working in the Arctic.
Traditional prey species may be less accessible in a new sea ice environment, and seals that use the ice are predicted to fare poorly in the warming Arctic region.
Climate change is also resulting in more habitat fragmentation.
Offshore petroleum installations and operations in the Arctic are expected to increase in number.
This expansion would likely affect polar bears and their habitat in many ways, including the following: Increased Arctic shipping represents a risk to polar bears.