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Daily Archives: 5. January 2018 − News & Stories

Mel­ting sea ice makes rese­arch on polar bears more dif­fi­cult

It is beco­ming incre­asing­ly dif­fi­cult for the rese­ar­chers on Spits­ber­gen to stu­dy the migra­ti­ons of polar bears on the Barents Sea bet­ween Sval­bard and Rus­sia. The­re are about 3000 polar bears living in the area, but only about 300 polar bears can be stu­di­ed by the rese­ar­chers. The reason is the with­dra­wal of sea ice, which cau­ses that the migra­ting polar bears can no lon­ger reach Sval­bard.

Migra­ti­on of polar bears can be tra­ced by a GPS col­lar

Polar bear with GPS collar

“The situa­ti­on has chan­ged dra­sti­cal­ly,” says polar bear rese­ar­cher Jon Aars from the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. Sin­ce 1987, the polar bears on Spits­ber­gen have been sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly exami­ned. Until the 1990s, not only polar bears living all year round on Spits­ber­gen were obser­ved, but also tho­se who migra­te over long distances on the sea ice on the Barents Sea bet­ween Rus­sia and Spits­ber­gen. A lar­ge part of this stock could also be found on Spits­ber­gen for some time of the year, so that the migra­to­ry move­ments could be well stu­di­ed.

Today, almost only bears are tag­ged, who spend the who­le year on Spits­ber­gen. Only two or three out of 20 tag­ged bears migra­te to Rus­sia. The result is less data about the migra­to­ry move­ments of the polar bears. The data is nee­ded to orga­ni­ze the con­ser­va­ti­on of polar bears.

Sin­ce the bears can no lon­ger reach Spits­ber­gen, rese­ar­chers try to find ways to approach the polar bears. But it is much more dif­fi­cult to approach the polar bear on sea ice. The ice must be sta­ble enough for a heli­c­op­ter to land on. At the same time, the open sea should not be too clo­se so that the polar bear does not jump into the sea and drown the­re after being tran­qui­li­zed. Whe­ther this data is actual­ly nee­ded to orga­ni­ze the con­ser­va­ti­on of polar bears, remains controversial.The nega­ti­ve effects of tag­ging has been repor­ted on this web­site seve­ral times (“Polar bear found dead in Petu­ni­abuk­ta had been anaes­the­ti­sed for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses” or “Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar”)

Jon Aars also appeals to the rus­si­an sci­en­tists to show more effort in rese­ar­ching the polar bears, for exam­p­le on Franz-Josef-Land.

The ice is get­ting thin­ner for the polar bears of the Barents Sea…

Polar bear

Source: NRK

2017 review­ed: June, Jan May­en – the lava caves on Bee­ren­berg

I have to start with a con­fes­si­on: I for­got the main exci­te­ment in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in April: the town was run­ning out of toi­let paper! Peo­p­le in arc­tic Lon­gye­ar­by­en seem to a sur­pri­sin­gly lar­ge degree be wil­ling to accept cli­ma­te chan­ge, they keep cool when the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry sup­po­sedly exer­ci­s­es attacks on their home, who cares, some loss is part of the game. But no toi­let paper any­mo­re? That’s serious busi­ness!

The exci­te­ment about the sup­po­sed floo­ding of the seed vault / “doomsday vault” falls into a simi­lar cate­go­ry. Inde­ed, in Octo­ber 2016, during a peri­od with a lot of rain, the­re was some water coming into the ent­rance area of the vault. That should not have hap­pen­ed and tho­se who were con­cer­ned with it were not hap­py and some money was to be spent to get things right, but what had actual­ly hap­pen­ed was far from being any real dra­ma. But that came more than half a year later in inter­na­tio­nal media. Someone hap­pen­ed to pick up that mar­gi­na­li­um, spi­ced it with some dra­ma, tole­rant­ly over­loo­ked that it had all hap­pen­ed more than half a year ago and blew it out into the world, whe­re it was picked up by sur­pri­sin­gly many media, inclu­ding some serious ones. Nobo­dy came on the idea to check what had real­ly hap­pen­ed, the­re was a lot of recy­cling of copied infor­ma­ti­on and that is usual­ly not a good idea. Che­cking the seed vault’s web­site would have been enough, but that was obvious­ly too much to ask for. Well, I am hap­py that this web­site did not fol­low the hype.

Regar­ding my own polar per­spec­ti­ve, Jan May­en was the main event in June. For the fourth time, I went to that vol­ca­nic island in the north, 3 days of sai­ling from Ice­land, on a small boat across a big sea. Jan May­en is an extre­me­ly fasci­na­ting place. The more time you spend the­re, the more you rea­li­ze how much the­re is to see. As usu­al, we made a lot of kilo­me­t­res during our various hikes. Next to many other impres­si­ons, the lava caves on Bee­ren­berg were the main thing for me this time. While a group of moun­tai­neers clim­bed up to the peak of Bee­ren­berg (whe­re I had been in 2015), I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explo­re a cou­ple of lava caves in Schmelck­da­len on the south slo­pe of Bee­ren­berg. Stun­ning! It is a bizar­re fee­ling to be actual­ly insi­de Bee­ren­berg, in the guts of this arc­tic vol­ca­no. I pro­ba­b­ly don’t have to men­ti­on that it is a hard-to-get-to place. That was my high­light in June.

Bäreninsel: Perleporten

Lava cave in Schmelck­da­len on Bee­ren­berg, Jan May­en.


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