(Edmonton) A University of Alberta polar bear researcher along with eleven international co-authors are urging governments to start planning for rapid Arctic ecosystem change to deal with a climate change catastrophe for the animals.
U of A professor Andrew Derocher co-authored a policy perspective in the journal Conservation Letters urging governments with polar bear populations to accept that just one unexpected jump in Arctic warming trends could send some polar bear populations into a precipitous decline.
"It's a fact that early sea ice break-up and late ice freeze-up and the overall reduction in ice pack are taking their toll," said Derocher. "We want governments to be ready with conservation and management plans for polar bears when a worst case climate change scenario happens."
The effects of climate change on polar bears are clear from both observational and modeling studies in many parts of the distribution. Earlier studies by Derocher and his colleagues show that one very bad ice year could leave hundreds of Hudson Bay polar bears stranded on land for an extended period. Derocher noted "Such an event could erase half of a population in a single year".
"The management options for northern communities like Churchill would range from doing nothing, to feeding the bears, moving them somewhere else or euthanizing them," said Derocher.
The concerned researchers say they're not telling governments what to do. The authors, however, want policy makers and wildlife managers to start planning polar bear for both the predicted escalation of Arctic warming and for an off the charts worst case scenario.
"You're going to make better decisions if you have time to think about it in advance: it's a no brainer," said Derocher. Further, "consultation with northern residents takes time and the worst time to ask for input is during a crisis".
The researchers say the options for polar bear management includ
|Contact: Brian Murphy|
University of Alberta