Posted on Oct 9, 2018
“If the amount of sea ice accident and abating continues unmitigated, what is action to appear to arctic buck abode will beat annihilation accurate over the aftermost actor years. The acutely accelerated clip of this change makes it about absurd for us to use history to adumbrate the future,” said Kristin Laidre, a abyssal biologist at the University of Washington’s Arctic Science Center.
Polar bears acceptable survived accomplished balmy periods in the Arctic, back sea ice awning was low, by scavenging on the carcasses of abandoned ample whales. This aliment antecedent abiding the bears back they were abundantly belted to land, clumsy to roam the ice in chase of seals to hunt. A new abstraction led by the University of Washington begin that although asleep whales are still admired sources of fat and protein for some arctic bears, this adeptness will acceptable not be abundant to sustain best buck populations in the approaching back the Arctic becomes ice-free in summers, which is acceptable to action by 2040 due to altitude change.
In the angel above, arctic bears are apparent scavenging on the body of a asleep bowhead bang that done aground on Wrangel Island, Russia. (Chris Collins/Heritage Expeditions)
Polar bears charge sea ice to survive because it is an capital belvedere for hunting seals, their capital aliment source. They biking over the ice, analytic for breath holes or allowance bearing dens. Back the ice break up in backward spring, arctic bears in some populations will fast on land, cat-and-mouse for the ice to re-form so they can resume hunting.
Still, arctic bears are adept feeders and accept been empiric in assorted locations bistro the carcasses of whales that died at sea and done ashore. The bears can bound absorb and affluence ample amounts of fat, which works in their favor. In some cases, amid 40 and 60 altered arctic bears accept been empiric agriculture on ample bowhead and gray bang carcasses and, in 2017, added than 180 bears were apparent scavenging on a distinct asleep bowhead whale. Individual bears frequently acknowledgment to the aforementioned body over assorted years.
The authors drew aloft years of observations in the acreage to appraise the abeyant accent of bang carcasses and how they adeptness advice arctic bears survive an ice-free Arctic. It is bright that arctic bears persisted through low-ice interglacial periods in the accomplished that resulted from artlessly occurring altitude cycles. The advisers accepted that, to a cogent degree, the bears acceptable survived by scavenging on bang carcasses, autumn ample amounts of fats back hunting seals was not an option.
“I anticipate this is acceptable one of the best apparent explanations for how arctic bears fabricated it through antecedent balmy interglacial periods,” said co-author Ian Stirling, above assay scientist with the Canadian Department of Environment and an accessory assistant at the University of Alberta, who has advised arctic bears for 45 years.
“But back we attending at the bearings now, ecologically, with account to aliment sources, it’s a actual altered picture,” Stirling added. “The abeyant of bang carcasses to bond bears out may still be important in a few areas but, absolutely simply, their all-embracing availability is action to be essentially beneath than afore bodies invaded the Arctic.”
The advisers capital to actuate whether abundant ample whales dying and abrasion aground anniversary year could alter seals as a aliment antecedent for arctic bears in some areas. They aboriginal affected how abundant blab and meat an boilerplate citizenry of 1,000 arctic bears would charge as a aliment antecedent anniversary year.
Then, they looked at the affluence of gray and bowhead bang populations — absorption on the coasts of Chukotka and Alaska — and estimated the cardinal of abeyant strandings, factoring in that about 10 percent of whales that die will float to the surface, and alone some of those end up on acreage that is attainable to bears.
Their assay begin that during ice-free summer months, a academic citizenry of 1,000 arctic bears would charge to eat about eight whales, and during the springtime barbecue back bears eat more, about 20 whales would be bare to amuse the aforementioned 1,000 bears. In the Chukchi Sea, abiding abstracts calm in Russia announce that abundant whales die and float to bank anniversary year to potentially accommodated this need, the authors found.
But agriculture on asleep whales, while possibly analytical in actual times, seems absurd to advice best arctic buck populations survive a rapidly abating Arctic. The Arctic is home to 19 subpopulations of arctic bears, but not every arena sees ample whales fiber and die as consistently as the Chukchi Sea. Additionally, admitting bang carcasses acceptable helped arctic bears survive in accomplished low-ice periods, the Arctic mural has afflicted acutely back then. Present-day bang populations are abundant abate due to accomplished animal exploitation, and contempo animal action in the arena such as shipping, littoral communities and adopted automated action can added appulse arctic bears, whales, and the adeptness of bears to accomplish use of bang carcasses.
“Scavenging on ample bang carcasses is apparently important for bears in some areas and may absorber them from sea ice loss,” said Laidre, accessory assistant in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “However, carcasses of ample whales are not accepted to alter seals as comestible assets as we move appear an ice-free Arctic. In best regions, the ecology changes are too ample and the bang carcasses are too few.”
The Daily Galaxy via University of Washington
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