Polar bears no longer on 'thin ice': researchers say polar bears could face brighter future

From the:USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station via Eurekalert

Polar bears no longer on ‘thin ice’: researchers say polar bears could face brighter future

VIDEO: Science team placing radio collars on polar bears.

PORTLAND, Ore. December 21, 2010. “When I first picked up the cub, she was biting my hand,” explains wildlife biologist Bruce Marcot. He was trying to calm the squirming cub while its sedated mother slept nearby.

In the snowy spring of 2009, Portland-based Marcot traveled with several colleagues onto the frozen Arctic Ocean north of Alaska to study and survey polar bear populations. From their base of operations at the settlements of Deadhorse, next to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, they ventured by small plane and helicopter over a wide area of the Beaufort Sea in a study to determine the bears’ health and to learn the impact of warming Arctic temperatures on their population.

“From the helicopter, we located radio-collared polar bears by their signals. Then, swooping in like a cowboy after a bull, our lead scientist would dart the bear with a tranquilizer dart,” explains Marcot. “We then landed, corralled any cubs, and made the sleeping mother comfortable on the sea ice while we studied her health, weighed her, took measurements, and changed her radio collar so she could be further tracked.”

Marcot, a scientist at the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, is a co-author on the recently published paper about the impact of climate change on polar bears, in the journal Nature. He was invited to be a member of the study team because of his expertise in the analysis and modeling of wildlife population viability. The study’s lead scientist, Steven Amstrup, of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center, had asked Marcot several years earlier to join a polar bear science team organized to advise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That team examined and analyzed global polar bear populations, habitats, and climate change.

IMAGE: Wildlife biologist Bruce Marcot is placing a radio collar on a cub. 

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They presented their results in 2007 before several federal agencies and the U.S. Department of the Interior, in Washington, D.C., and in 2008 the Federal government designated the polar bear as a globally threatened species.

The 2007 study projected that about two-thirds of the roughly 25,000 polar bears in the world would disappear by mid-century because of the effects of climate change and the ice melting in the Arctic. Now, in the December 2010 Nature study, Marcot and his colleagues learned that decline of the bear could be mitigated if greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.

These findings may have implications for citizens and natural resource managers in the Pacific Northwest working to manage resources for a warming climate, particularly in high mountain areas.

For the past several years Marcot has collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others on studies examining the impacts of climate change on wildlife and the environment.

The most recent study published in Nature, “Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Can Reduce Sea-ice Loss and Increase Polar Bear Persistence,” was coauthored by Amstrup; Eric DeWeaver, National Science Foundation; David Douglas, U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center; Marcot; George Durner, U.S. Geological Survey; Cecilia Bitz, University of Washington; and David Bailey, National Center for Atmospheric Research, issue of Nature. It appears online at www http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7326/full/nature09653.html

The study’s key findings says Marcot are:

  • The results of modeling regional polar bear populations indicate a potentially brighter future for the species if global greenhouse gas concentrations can be kept under control at levels less than those expected under current conditions.
  • Sea ice habitat for polar bears will likely not face a “tipping point” of sudden catastrophic loss over the 21st century, particularly under a mitigation scenario to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Even under relatively stringent mitigation reductions in future greenhouse gas concentration, polar bears in two of the four eco-regions, constituting about 2/3 of all current polar bear numbers, will still incur at least reductions in numbers and distribution. However, the best future outcome for these populations would result from a combination of mitigation control of greenhouse gas concentration with best on-the-ground management practices to control hunting and human activities such as levels of shipping, oil and gas activities, etc.
  • There will still be significant uncertainty as to the future of polar bear populations from the combination of all sources of stressors from climate change, direct human disruption, and other biological factors.

The team’s study is significant. “It demonstrates for the first time that—and how—a combination of greenhouse gas mitigation and control of adverse human activities in the Arctic can lead to a more promising future for polar bear populations and their sea ice habitat,” says Marcot. “It also provides specific predictions of the future, couched in terms of probabilities of polar bear population response that decision-makers could use in risk management.”

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The PNW Research Station is headquartered in Portland, Oregon. It has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington and about 425 employees.

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Frank K.

“Science team placing radio collars on polar bears.”
That must rank as one of the most dangerous jobs in all of science!!

rob m.

“The results of modeling…”
Enough said.

latitude

I’m one of those people that does not like poly bears at all…
..I do think seals are about the cutest things I’ve ever seen
The bears have never been in any danger at all, this is only about control and money.

higley7

“The results of modeling regional polar bear populations”
Not the freaking models again!
Since there is no evidence that polar bears have been impacted at all by recent warming, why would they be suddenly impacted by a bit more? This makes no sense.
It is reported that most of the 13 colonies are stable or growing and the only two that are in trouble are in the Hudson Bay area where it is cooling the most. A couple of colonies are over-populated and need to be thinned (by hunters); too many bears scare away the prey walrus and leads to starvation.
Only through modeling, which everybody knows is much more reliable than real world observations, do we know that polar bears are in trouble.
It’s time to let the bears alone and take them off the endangered list. They are so numerous that they are invading human settlements and endangering the children. Of course, it goes without saying that the environmentalists don’t care if a few children get eaten.

Mike

“Now, in the December 2010 Nature study, Marcot and his colleagues learned that decline of the bear could be mitigated if greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.”
Is it safe to assume this blog’s proprietor is in favor of reducing GHG emissions?

Dave Wendt

Let’s see if I’ve got this right. They studied the polar bears 3-4 years ago and concluded they needed to be declared an endangered species. Then they studied them again recently and decided GHG mitigation would lead to improvements in the outcomes for the bears. Since virtually nothing meaningful has been done to mitigate GHGs in the time between the two studies, what exactly provided the evidence to support this change in emphasis?

Spartacus

I’ve assisted with sadness to the degradation of “Nature” since they embrassed the AGW mouvement. How do these guys prove what they are saying? They assume that grenhouese gases are the cause for the retraction of artic ice (sea and land). But who did prove that without any shadow of doubt? Was I distracted?

mike g

What I get out of the last part of this is there is no room for a couple of oil rigs in the ANWR, which is utter rubbish as we approach $4/gal gasoline this spring.

Sam Hall

This has not been a good year for the “Team.”
Maybe this can explain why the Dalton and others were so cold.

Don B

The Polar Bear Alley blog reported on November 16, 2010 that a photographer had spotted so many seal kills, and bears so full, that they had stockpiled seals. This was before ice formed on Hudson Bay.
On November 19 it reported that the Manitoba Conservation aerial survey of a few weeks previous to then had a good count of bears with most of them in good shape.
http://www.polarbearalley.com/index.html

Mike Davis

It is always good to hear from the Chicken Little Brigade!!!!

John F. Hultquist

Nature wants $32 for a three page paper?
The assumption of GHGs is the issue?
Nothing about cooling?
Nothing about “let’s stop killing them”!
I predict the polar bears will have a nice future if all the hunters, all the tourists, and all the government we’re here to help agents would stay within 50 degrees of the Equator.

pat

What a bunch of delusional nonsense. Here we have an attempt at back off. I.e.,” ahhh, Polar Bears really are not endangered in America and Canada. ”
But an unwillingness to give up on the idiocy of AGW having a distinct effect on Polar Bear populations. I,e., “ahhh, I think they will just be fine if we cut back on CO2.”
But they toss in the truth, just so those who can read between the lines , i.e. everyone but journalists, whacked out environmentalists, and politicians, can know what they really found out: the health of the Polar Bear population is directly tied to hunting either of the Bear itself or game upon which it feeds. It really has nothing to do with AGW to date.

R. Shearer

“Our outcomes indicate that rapid summer ice losses in models9 and observations6, 10 represent increased volatility of a thinning sea-ice cover, rather than tipping-point behaviour.” That’s about as fair as is possible in this political science environment.

Woody

The recovery in numbers is worse than we thought.

tom T

If CO2 causes warming and there is a decrease in CO2 then there will be more ice. Not that big a discovery, it is a huge “if”

TomRude

That must be the result of British Columbia’s Carbon tax… LOL

John from CA

Step away from the Bear and leave them alone — they are doing just fine without looney Scientists!
Polar Bears with Radio Collars isn’t a great idea — they like to swim. Placing a collar on a cub is just plain stupid unless Marcot is trying to increase the death toll.

Al Gored

This ‘study” says nothing new. It just adds more paper to the agenda of using the polar bear as a false justification for ‘doing what we say.’ And it is all based on the predictions of disappearing ice due to The Warming.
This is a product of the new pseudoscience called Conservation Biology, the twisted sister of IPCC-style global climatology. They always find the results they are looking for… and this time they found it very, very quickly, apparently just starting in the spring of 2009.
And this is good: “From the helicopter, we located radio-collared polar bears by their signals. Then, swooping in like a cowboy after a bull, our lead scientist would dart the bear with a tranquilizer dart,” explains Marcot. “We then landed, corralled any cubs, and made the sleeping mother comfortable on the sea ice while we studied her health, weighed her, took measurements, and changed her radio collar so she could be further tracked.”
Of course, according to these people, all this has absolutely no impact on the bears.

bob

Mitigate or not?
That is the question.
Pass the popcorn.
We can reduce the effect on the polar bears if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
All in favor?

FergalR

Yeah, them poley bears are kinda cute when they’re drugged and unable to bite your kneecap clean off. But limit human industry just in case it might save 2/3 of them according to a model? No.
They didn’t evolve until very recently, their habitat is suited to very little else, they have close genetic relations in the North American bears and as a top predator their loss isn’t going to mess much with ecology. Except maybe give the whales more seals to eat.
China saved the pandas but I personally would have preferred to have no pandas and the Chinese people been allowed to have as many children as they wanted. Sorry if this sounds harsh.

Dianna

I can’t help thinking that the bears need an abductees’ society.
Sorry, I know this is serious, but I keep imagining bears gathering and sharing stories.
“It was awful, Myrtle!”

Howarth

You got to be kidding me. Basically it says “Only if we hold the world hostage and you exactly as we say, we will let the polar bears live”. I hope this not considered a peer reviewed paper or a scientist paper. Its a little biased don’t you think.

bubbagyro

We should plant 100 or so bears in Antarctica where it is way colder, with many more Manhattans worth of ice, and there are tons of seals and penguins. They should prosper like nobody’s business, no?
Also, since there are three times more polar bears now than 50 years ago, and CO2 is the identified culprit according to these “experts”, then CO2 must be already mitigated, no? Just trying to follow their logic trail…

Dave L

Garbage in = garbage out.

bubbagyro

Al Gored says:
December 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm
Reminds me of the slightly impaired farmer who complained to the agricultural scientist that his corn would not grow. “I pulled the seedlings up carefully every day and checked the roots, but they died anyhow.”

John from CA

bob says:
December 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm
It would be easier to reduce the effects on Polar Bears if we immediately stopped all funding for “Scientists” who swoop in like a cowboy after a bull, scaring them half to death while they run off their protective fat, and shooting them full of tranquilizer darts from high powered weapons.
Our tax dollars at work : (

Ray

Yeah and because of global warming the polar bears will soon be able to walk down to the UK.

2kevin

“# The results of modeling regional polar bear populations indicate a potentially brighter future for the species if global greenhouse gas concentrations can be kept under control at levels less than those expected under current conditions.
# Sea ice habitat for polar bears will likely not face a “tipping point” of sudden catastrophic loss over the 21st century, particularly under a mitigation scenario to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Pure malarky. The report should just say that Polar Bears will survive only if we follow all IPCC recommendations.

sHx

This is a perfect opportunity to speak out on a most bothersome ethical issue.
Is it really necessary to tag animals with such clumsy collars? I know that there is a case that it is for the good of the species being studied. But what about the individual animal that is burdened by the GPS device. What if affects their natural behaviour? What could be learned from that?
Several years ago, there was an outrageous example that was shown on a BBC nature documentary on snow leopards. A collar bigger in size to the one on the polar bear’s neck was used on an animal only half the size. It looked like a mill-stone was hanging around the poor creature’s neck as it was trying to hunt. Later in the doco, they showed the leopard making a successful kill with the collar on, but that was hardly reassuring.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1U804VNZII&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Douglas DC

I smell the pungent odor of Grant Money in the wind….

Curiousgeorge

Another brick in the wall (Pink Floyd). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_bvT-DGcWw . Leave them kids alone!

Mike McMillan

All those conclusions from weighing a few polar bears. As Darth Vader once said, “Impressive!”
Did they make any stock market predictions?

This sounds like the “good news” approach that AGW believers are being encouraged to take these days, given that the public is fed up with and no longer influenced by apocalyptic fear-mongering. What’s the difference in substance between the gloomy “If we continue to add GHGs the polar bears will die” and the sunny “If we reduce GHGs the polar bears will live.” Answer: None, except warmist spin.

I wonder how much those radio collars mess up their camouflage.
Probably not much, but if you tag enough of them then some will lose out on a meal or two.

Gary Hladik

So now they say the bears are OK.
Look who just caught up!

JohnQPublic@live.ca

So someone actually got out from behind their desk and counted the polar bears? Jeez, maybe there isn’t a problem after all?
Maybe we can get some funding if we say that seals and penguins are dropping in numbers?
It worked before. Why not again?

Why is this a concern of the USDA Forest Service? Polar bears don’t live in forests. Aren’t there enough pressing forest issues for the USFS to study?
And if this piece of USFS research is irrelevant to its mission, as well as pseudoscience with political bias, can we be confident that most or even any USFS research is relevant and unbiased?
Clearly the USFS has money to burn in its research program, and hence taxpayers would benefit from a sharp reduction in their budget.

RoyFOMR

I kinda liked BubbaGyro’s idea of transplanting Ursus MaritImus to the frigid parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
Given that Antartica contains circa 90% of the worlds ice it would certainly provide enough lebensraum for Polar Bear populations. Ok, they would have to steer clear of the semi-tropical Western Peninsula, where the top predators from Africa and Asia would be rehoused, and confine themselves to the beach-front properties but I think that it would advantage them.
For a start they would less likely to be dragged into embarrassing, no-win “Death-match” weekends against the Kountless Klimate Killer Klans who, in Northern Climatic Zones are all too plentiful. Fuelled by overdoses of Tax Dollars, these wannabe kowboys fired up by over exposure to the XBox fantasy worlds of their dreary 9:30 to just after 4’ish existences get to play.
Nothing like manning a chemical chain-gun, over frozen icy wastelands, with Wagner in the background, to assert your manhood. Bonus points for saving the Planet up for grabs too!
Me? I’m not entirely sure that shooting up gravitationally fettered opponents from an environmental gun-ship is cricket but, and I’m being a bit touchy-feely here, don’t think the Bears are entirely enamoured by it all.
Moving our furry-friends south would make such encounters more infrequent, due to Carbon overcharge. I’d be happier with moving the Geeks and leaving the Poleys where they are but I’d settle for the former.
Thank you for your suggestion, BubbaGyro, but I would advise that we proceed slowly.
Step 1: scoop up a few tons of Penguin ready meals and introduce the PB to an unfamiliar diet.
Step 2: gather data about step 1
Step 3: create the computer models
Step 4: take action on the projections from step 3
Step 5: ignore any conflictions to step 4 and demand more funding
Step 6: use step 5 funding to get you and your buddies to meet up at the South Pole and back on the chain gun/gang

kuhnkat

Wonder if they are going to find bears in a few years choked to death by their collars and put it down as a side effect of Global Warming!!

jcspe

thanks for the clear example of where government spending can be cut without losing anything we actually need.

Jimash

It would be nice if they stopped molesting the Bears.
Polar Bears are insignificant. Thriving or extinct. No difference except to the other bears.
I wonder if the male bears ever refuse to mate with the slave-collared bears.
It is possible that these Narco-hunting-radio-tracking sportsmen do more harm than good.

major

The polar bears were NEVER in trouble. Their populations have been increasing since they started being protected back in the late 70’s. Is this what Americans want, to be manipulated and spoon fed lies by ruthless, self-serving liars who want, in the end, to take all your individual rights and use you like slaves

chris b

Polar bears don’t need ice to hunt, or survive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcmNp4Xwe4Y&feature=related

Jeremy

Eco-Hypocrites
They fly around in helicopters instead of going on foot. A HUGE CO2 footprint.
They acclimatise young wild bear cubs to humans (a death sentence for the animal as it will have lost its natural fear of humans and will very likely end up being a dangerous nuisance and getting shot).
Not to mention that bears are very dangerous and an acclimatized bear is a danger to humans.
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/11/24/article-1229998-075939A4000005DC-320_634x637.jpg

H.R.

Frank K. says:
December 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm
“Science team placing radio collars on polar bears.”
That must rank as one of the most dangerous jobs in all of science!!

Not really. The polar bears line up to get shot. They’re in it for the cheap high ;o)
.
.
.
“oh man…. I got so wasted from that dart the other day! What a buzz!”

mike g

@John from CA
Trouble swimming with the collar? Surely they can’t swim at all. Haven’t you see the pictures of them clinging to the melting ice about to drown only a few feet from shore?

MJPenny

So, they used a general circulation model to produce sea ice “data”, with no empirical verification, to run a Bayesian network model to produce polar bear population “data” out 40 years. Does the GCM suffer from the same forcing issues that Willis Eschenbach identified in his Dec 19 post? This over reliance on model just bugs the dickens out of us engineers out here in the blogosphere.

JRR Canada

Would they have served science better by hugging an untranked bear? I do think so.

Ted Gray

Hi Fellow Truth Sayers
HT to Don B
I often go to the website Polar Bear Blogs, below is a small flavour of his blog.
This guy lives there 360 days a year, he obviously loves the life up there and is definitely in the loop as far as the bears and climate goes. It’s entertaining and you’ll get the real story there. The Polar bears are in great shape and always are winter and summer, no thanks to environmental alarmist trying to justify their grant money.
Polar Bear Blog – December 2, 2010 – the bears are officially gone (onto the Ice). Polar Bear Alert has emptied out the jail and this usually signals the end of the end.
Polar Bear Blog – November 22, 2010 Churchill cold spell… -19C Ice crystals now cling to the trees and sea ice – with a good chunk of freshwater ice too – extends as far into the bay as you can see. Most bears are gone, even Brian’s bears will leave in a week or two.
Polar Bear Blog – November 19, 2010 It reported that the Manitoba Conservation aerial survey of a few weeks previous to then had a good count of bears with most of them in good shape.
Polar Bear Blog – November 16, 2010 that a photographer had spotted so many seal kills, and bears so full, that they had stockpiled seals. This was before ice formed on Hudson Bay.
Polar Bear Blog – November 5, 2010 – 2010 is the year of the seal kill in Churchill. Over these past years, polar bears are taking seals much more frequently in the tidal zone. The tidal zone, the area between high tide and low tide.
It could be a gradual evolution of hunting style, some of that coming from females increasingly desperate for food in the late 90s turning to hunting in the tidal zone.
Now, it has become a learned behaviour in the population.
http://www.polarbearalley.com/index.html