A quarter of the world’s polar bears inhabit these Arctic islands, where sea ice is currently present throughout the year. But according to the paper, ‘Projected Polar Bear Sea Ice Habitat in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago’, published today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE with support from WWF, even these bears are likely to face up to five months of open water in the coming decades.
The study found that, by 2070, over 80 percent of the archipelago’s ice could break up in July. This would force pregnant females onto land earlier than normal, which could interfere with successful births. And the remaining sea ice may not persist long enough to allow bears enough time to hunt.
“This sobering report shows the limits of polar bear adaptation in the face of climate change,” said Pete Ewins, WWF Species Conservation Specialist in Canada. “Polar bears will continue to face increasingly challenging conditions unless we slash greenhouse gas emissions. We also must limit other pressures, such as shipping and offshore oil and gas development, to give bears the best chance at survival.”