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Home* News and Stories → Mel­ting sea ice makes rese­arch on polar bears more dif­fi­cult

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



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last modification: 2018-01-05 · copyright: Rolf Stange