Both sides now: New paper critiques Canadian polar bear population status

Demographic and traditional knowledge perspectives on the current status of Canadian polar bear subpopulations. 2016 (in press). Jordan York, Martha Dowsley, Adam Cornwell, Miroslaw Kuc and Mitchell Taylor. Ecology and Evolution 6(9):2897-2924. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2030

York et al 2016 fig 1_numbers 2013

Take home quote:

“We see reason for concern, but find no reliable evidence to support the contention that polar bears are currently experiencing a climate crisis. We suggest that the qualitative projections for dramatic reductions in population numbers and range are overly pessimistic given the response of polar bears, climate, and sea ice to the present.”

Here’s a sample:

We show that much of the scientific evidence indicating that some polar bear subpopulations are declining due to climate change-mediated sea ice reductions is likely flawed by poor mark–recapture (M-R) sampling and that the complex analysis models employed to overcome these capture issues apparently fail to provide accurate estimates of the demographic parameters used to determine subpopulation status. Our evidence is partly scientific (comparison to subsequent surveys), partly logical (the demographic estimates suggest a dramatic decline that has not occurred) and partly taken from Inuit and Inuvialuit traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).

We see reason for concern, but find no reliable evidence to support the contention that polar bears are currently experiencing a climate crisis. We suggest that the qualitative projections for dramatic reductions in population numbers and range are overly pessimistic given the response of polar bears, climate, and sea ice to the present.

Our purpose is not to use Science to test TEK to determine whether it is accurate or not. We are also not testing Science to see whether it is accurate according to TEK standards. We compare scientific and TEK perspectives on polar bear subpopulation status to identify which subpopulations the two knowledge systems agree on, and which subpopulations they differ on. Secondarily, we look for any patterns in the agreed and contested comparisons that could explain why the two knowledge systems might not agree in some cases, and thus better understand what the true status of the various polar bear subpopulations might be. We ask whether there is any benefit (increased understanding of that one underlying reality) to asking why TEK agrees with Science on the status of some polar bear subpopulations, but disagrees with science on the status of others.” [my bold]

Read the rest here (Open Access).

 

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