This region has seen about 6 times the amount of summer sea ice loss as any other region of the Arctic (Regehr et al. 2016): Barents Sea bears now have a longer ice-free season than the famous Western Hudson Bay bears that we hear so much about.
Yet contrary to predictions, which insisted that protracted poor ice conditions in summer would inevitably result in catastrophic rates of starvation and death (Amstrup et al. 2007; Crockford 2017, 2019), polar bears in the Svalbard region have so far not had any documented any harm to their health or population size. In fact, field data show bears in Svalbard are in better condition than they were in the late 1990s (Lippold et al. 2019), almost certainly due to the documented increase in primary productivity that has resulted from longer ice-free summers since 2003 (Frey et al. 2022; Crockford 2023).Continue reading