Greenland's Polar Bear Numbers Declining

  • 16 Nov 2023

An international study, examining genetic material, food preferences, habitat, and historical climate data, reveals a substantial decline in polar bear numbers in Greenland over the past 20,000 years.

Key Points

  • Sea Temperature Rise and Decline in Polar Bear Population: The study emphasizes the connection between rising sea temperatures and the declining polar bear population in Greenland.
  • Impact of Sea Ice Reduction on Seal Population: As sea temperatures rise, there is a reduction in sea ice, leading to fewer seals—the primary food source for polar bears.
  • Non-Linear Relationship between Environmental Changes and Population Decline: Small environmental changes, such as a modest increase in water temperature and a slight reduction in sea ice, result in a dramatic decline in the polar bear population.
  • Temperature Changes over the Last 20,000 Years: The study reveals that the sea temperature around Greenland has increased by 0.2 to 0.5 degrees Celsius over the last 20,000 years, contributing to a 20 to 40 per cent reduction in the polar bear population.
  • Unprecedented Global Warming Impact on Polar Bears: The researchers attribute the temperature rise to ongoing global warming, stating that the current situation is unprecedented compared to the polar bear's experiences over the last 20,000 years.
  • Drastic Projections for Polar Bear Thriving: Drastic projections suggest that, given the current trends, the polar bear species is not expected to thrive.
  • Ecosystem Impact and Dietary Changes: The polar bear, as the top of the food chain, reflects broader ecosystem changes, indicating pressure on marine ecosystems in the Arctic.