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Global population estimate footnote causes problems for polar bear specialists

Apparently, the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) are catching flack over their global polar bear population estimates.

pbsg logo

Global Population Footnote [its own section, Pg. 32-33, of the minutes of the June 2014 meeting (pdf here). Recall my post on the issue here]

Over the years, the global population estimate found in the Proceedings status table has been used and misused by the general public and self-interest groups. Often the global estimate is taken out of context, without reading all the accompanying text, and used to suggest that the numbers of polar bears have been slightly increasing or at least stable over a period in which much has been made of the loss of sea ice habitat.

In an attempt to clarify this, a footnote to the website status table was drafted. This footnote has subsequently been used to suggest that the PBSG does not really know how many polar bears there are and certainly cannot defend the notion that the loss of sea ice has been a threat to the species.

As a result, the global estimate of 20,000-25,000 polar bears is back in the news and has caused problems for the PBSG. The Group should probably reconsider population estimates for data deficient subpopulations for the next status table.

In the meantime, there was considered to be value in drafting an explanation for the global population estimate of 20,000-25,000 for the online status table. It was thought that this would be a better approach than to directly engage those who have been misusing the information.” [my bold]

[As I showed in my post, the text accompanying the PBSG status tables for 2005 and 2009 did not include a clarification of this kind – the only mention of this uncertainty was found in the drafted press release published at the end of the document]

Another statement in the June 2014 minutes caught my eye:

K. Laidre summarized the need for the PBSG to do a better job of communicating accurate and balanced science about polar bears.” Pg. 28

In my next post, I’ll show you how they did on this assignment.

 

Christmas collage

Warmest regards and heartfelt thanks for your support over the last year. Have a wonderful holiday.

Susan

Christmas collage 2013 PolarBearScience

The first 6 months of a new science blog: PolarBearScience Aug 2012-Jan 2013

Here’s a bit of “new blog” stats. It might be of interest later or for others starting a new blog and looking for comparisons.

I started blogging on July 26 2012, so technically my first six months ended a few days ago. But I thought I’d focus on the first 6 full months, since WordPress calculates many of its stats that way.

From Aug. 1, 2012 to Jan. 31, 2013, PolarBearScience had readers from 96 countries around the world, see map below, which was not a big surprise. Polar bear conservation is an international issue that feeds off a global fascination with polar bear life history and evolution.

Views of PolarBearScience by country, Aug. 1, 2012 to Jan. 31, 2013

Views of PolarBearScience by country, Aug. 1, 2012 to Jan. 31, 2013

Continue reading

Merry Christmas

My rendition, in gingerbread, of three polar bears on an iceberg. Happy holidays to you all.

My rendition, in gingerbread, of three polar bears on an iceberg.
Happy holidays to you all.

Fat polar bears chew on whale bones, chase dog

Brief interlude from Western Hudson Bay. My fascination with Arctic dogs and polar bears collides in Alaska!

BILL HESS / logbookwasilla.com

A string of remarkable photos of polar bears at the Kaktovik whale carcass dump (leftovers from subsistence whaling) on Barter Island on the north slope of Alaska and a dog having some fun, by Wasilla photographer Bill Hess, posted at this blog hereGo have a look. Note the condition of the bears, nice and fat from the look of it. Maps below to get you oriented geographically.

I had a Malamute years ago who played like this with horses…whole different game when played with polar bears!

From Anchorage Daily News feature from a few days ago. continue reading

The slaughter of polar bears that rarely gets mentioned (ca. 1890-1930)

Chock this post up as another example of mind-blowing information you sometimes find while looking for something else.

In their dendrochronology paper on trees associated with polar bear dens in western Hudson Bay, Scott and Stirling (2002:157) reference an MA thesis in Geography by James Honderich (1991), in regards to a discussion of denning frequency during the period 1850-1899, “when polar bear hides were more or less traded consistently.”

It turns out the James Honderich’s thesis is actually a summary of polar bear harvests in Canada from about 4,000 years ago to 1935. The number of polar bears taken by Arctic explorers (1594 to mid-1900s), Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders (from 1670 to 1935) and Arctic whalers (1820s-1935) were calculated from a variety of historical sources. This post is a summary of the results for the period 1800-1935. It is likely you have never seen this astonishing information before and the implications for polar bear biology are substantial. Continue reading

First month for Polar Bear Science – Aug, 2012

First posts went up July 26.

Total views @ Aug. 31 – 2454

Total views:
July 2012 –    567
Aug. 2012 – 1887

Over the last three weeks, views have been >600/week, an average of 91/day.

Largest spikes in readership were generated not by new posts (surprise!) but by media coverage:
1) television, newspaper and radio interviews associated with my lecture at the University of Toronto Aug. 14, “Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change”;
2) one of my posts was featured at Climate Depote on Aug. 31.

I am happy to report that so far, all of the comments I have received via the “comments/tips” page have been positive.

No one has yet asked for references. So, just to be clear, I am happy to send pdfs of any references I cite in my posts (if I have them – not always available, e.g. book chapters). Simply use the “Requests” contact page. Just because you don’t have access to a university library should not mean you can’t get to the science. Don’t take my word for anything – if you have doubts about what the research papers say, go to the source. Just ask!

I felt one comment by a reader was worth posting, so with their permission, I added it to the post as an update. Another commenter sent me photos, which I happily added, noted as an update.

I’ve got some interesting posts lined up, including another book review – stay tuned.

Enjoy the rest of your long weeekend.

PS. Huge thanks to Tom Nelson for highlighting my posts and Hilary Ostrov for technical advice to this novice blogger.