ResearchA group of polar bears lives in southeast Greenland despite their lack of one basic need: sea ice. Scientists have been studying these polar bears for some time. This finding is hopeful for other polar bears, according to research published in the scientific journal Sciences†
Polar bears have become the face of the climate crisis. Experts suggest that the animals will become extinct within a few decades due to the melting of Arctic sea ice. Melting sea ice means polar bears have to forage for food on land, where they have fewer options. At first glance, living conditions in southeastern Greenland seem unfavorable for polar bears, where sea ice has been present for less than a third of the year.
But now researchers have found a population of polar bears that live most of the year across the freshwater ice of glaciers. Icebergs form as a result of ice breaking off glaciers, which is what Christine Leder, one of the researchers, calls a “floating landscape.” These icebergs are a godsend for the polar bears in the region. They ensure that the animals can forage for food in the water all year round.
The new discovery offers hope for the future of other polar bear species. There is a possibility that the animals can survive, despite the high temperature. “This new group of polar bears teaches us how rare species can survive in an area without ice,” Lieder said.
However, researchers caution that this Greenland habitat is too small to support other polar bear species. “There are simply not enough glaciers for huge numbers of polar bears. We continue to expect a significant reduction in polar bears in the Arctic due to climate change,” Lieder said. “Actions still need to be taken to ensure the future of polar bears.”
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