Today’s the day to celebrate the resilience and adaptability of polar bears.
Not only did the record-breaking sea ice low of 2012 have virtually no effect on the bears but in 2014, only two subpopulations were classified as “declining” or “likely declining” – down from seven in 2010 and four in 2013 (see map below).
See my recent “Twenty good reasons not to worry about polar bears.”
[GWPF Briefing Paper version (pdf), just out today, here]
POLAR BEARS IN THE NEWS…
Kudos to the CBC for producing a propaganda-free polar bear “Fun Facts” page for kids that won’t give them nightmares – have a look.
Other news: Polar bears come early to Black Tickle, Labrador this year, a new population count is planned for the Barents Sea subpopulation, and The Times (UK) publishes some good news about polar bears. Details below.
UPDATE February 27, 2015. I’ve added another news item I missed below.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population, Summary
Tagged Barents Sea, Black Tickle, briefing paper, conservation success, extralimital sighting, good news, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador, polar bear, population estimate, sea ice
I’ve not written much about this subpopulation before but with the flurry of interest over “weakened” penis bones and toxic chemicals, I thought it was time to remedy the situation.
Posted in Life History, Pollution, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged contaminants, Davis Strait, diet, East Greenland, harp seals, hooded seals, movements, PBSG, PCBs, persistent organic pollutants, Persistent organohalogen contaminants, POC, polar bears, pollutants, POP, population assessments, seal pups, threatened, toxins, West Ice
Published in the Business section (Financial Post “Comments”) of the National Post this morning:
“Faux polar bear figures”
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images [from original NP essay]
[not my choice of title, by the way]
In which I conclude:
“We admire polar bear biologists for their professional dedication to this iconic species, and rightly so. However, while it’s understandable that polar bear biologists are conservation-minded, the public and policy makers need them to be scientists first and advocates for polar bear protection second. Polar bears are currently doing well – data shenanigans to keep them classified as “threatened” undermine the whole point of doing science.”
I have written extensively about the Southern Beaufort issue — below are links to some of these, which have links to the rest. References are included in these individual posts. Contact me if there is a reference you cannot find: Continue reading
Posted in Advocacy, Population, Summary
Tagged Amstrup, Bromaghin, essay, IUCN, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, models, National Post, opinion, polar bear, population estimate, ringed seals, Southern Beaufort, spring sea ice, starving, Stirling, survey, threatened, USGS
Did we hear a huge hue and cry in 2013 about starving polar bears and low cub survival in the Southern Beaufort Sea? No, we did not. Despite the record-breaking low summer sea ice extent the year before (2012), and despite the fact that USGS biologists were putting collars on polar bear females there the spring of 2013 (Rode et al. 2014), we heard not a peep about a polar bear catastrophe in the Southern Beaufort. Odd, isn’t it?
Several polar bear biologists and sea ice experts were busy late last fall suggesting to the media that a decline in polar bear numbers in the Southern Beaufort was due to declines in summer sea ice, which they blamed on global warming (see quotes below and earlier discussions here, here and here). However, they made no mention of the fact that the record-breaking September ice extent in 2012 did not seem to have any noticeable effect on polar bear health or survival in 2013.
Sea ice maps from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) tell most of the story about what the media were, and were not, told about summer sea ice in the Southern Beaufort between 2001 and 2013. Continue reading
Posted in Advocacy, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged abundance, aerial survey, Amstrup, Beaufort Sea, Bromaghin, Mark Serreze, mark-recapture, polar bear, population estimate, population recovery, Red list, Rode, sea ice, Southern Beaufort, spring ice conditions, summer ice minimum, USFWS
Polar bear researchers just published a study that suggests polar bears have moved around the Arctic in direct response to recent sea ice changes — a conclusion I suggest you take with a grain of salt and a raised eyebrow.
That’s because they have also proposed, among other things, that the Svalbard Archipelago was a sea ice refugium during warm interglacial periods, and could be again if the Arctic warms as predicted. That they would accept and promote such a model-based conclusion, which has no relationship with reality, calls their scientific judgment into question.
Based on genetic model results, the Svalbard Archipelago (circled) has been proposed as a sea ice refugium for polar bears during previous warm Interglacial periods and during predicted sea ice declines in the future. Yet most years since 1979 (2014 was one exception), this region has been ice free during the summer, making Svalbard a decidedly poor candidate for retaining sea ice when it’s much warmer than today.
Posted in Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Cronin, DNA, extinction, gene flow, genetics, Hamilton, Miller, models, PBSG, Peacock, polar bear, Polyak, predictions, refugium, sea ice, warming Arctic
The first-ever population estimate for polar bears in the Kara Sea is an astonishing 3,200 bears (range 2,700-3,500). Russian researchers report the results in a new paper (Matishov et al. 2014, in English).
Polar bear counts were made during late winter/early spring (approximately January to April) from ice-breakers between 1997 and 2013. Females with cubs (whether one or two) were noted. The counts were extrapolated to give a total for the entire region (as is usual for all such surveys).
The question is, will the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) consider this new polar bear count to be reliable or complete enough to include in their next IUCN assessment?
NOAA’s list of purported evidence for harm being caused to polar bears by Arctic warming is short and weak. It puts the gloomiest spin possible on the current well-being of an animal with all the earmarks of a healthy, well-distributed species.
This year, polar bears are virtually the only species that NOAA mentions in their Arctic Report Card – they’ve put all their icon-eggs in one leaky basket [what happened to walrus??]. But polar bears are doing so well that to make an alarming case for polar bears as victims of Arctic warming, many important caveats had to be left out or misrepresented. Some details given are simply wrong.
This year’s polar bear chapter was penned by IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group chairman Dag Vongraven (you might recall his email to me earlier this year) and a polar bear conservation activist from Polar Bears International (whose battle cry for donations is “Save Our Sea Ice!”), Geoff York.
I challenge their four weak talking points one by one below.
Posted in Population, Sea ice habitat, Summary
Tagged Arctic, Arctic Report Card, breakup, Bromaghin, cherry-picking, freeze-up, Geoff York, hybridization, IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, mark-recapture, polar bear, population estimate, red herring, sea ice, Southern Beaufort, thick spring ice, USFWS, Vongraven, western hudson bay