Save The Polar Bears

Maxwell Pollard, Senior Editor

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Climate change has disastrous effects on all the ecosystems of our planet, and the unique biodiversity found within them. While recent climate change affects the entire globe, no area is as threatened by these shifts as the polar regions, the Artic and Antartic. While the range of our planet’s polar regions has been greatly reduced since the time of the Ice Age, it still remains a massive geographic area full of diverse creatures. One of the most well-known of these animals is the Polar Bear, a species of bear native to the Arctic Circle. The survival of this unique bear and the neighboring species is threatened by the receding of the Earth’s ice caps. While it can be difficult to see the effects of climate change in our everyday lives and most of the ecosystems we inhabit, nowhere can these disastrous changes be seen more clearly than among polar species. This mighty bear faces the brunt of our careless treatment of the planet, and we have a responsibility to help it survive in whatever capacity we can. The global catastrophe that is global warming has reached its breaking point, and massive ecological changes, even more so than in our past or present, are sure to occur if we don’t take swift action. The polar bear may be beyond saving, but at the very least should serve as a belated warning of humanity’s destruction of Earth’s biodiversity, and a display of our need for global action.

Polar bears (Ursus Maritimus)  are members of the taxonomic family Ursidae, along with every other bear, and the sister species to the brown bear. The polar bears diverged from the brown bear relatively recently at roughly 150,000 years ago, though they would come to occupy quite a different niche from these relatives and other extant members of Ursidae. Polar bears are a truly special species among the many bears roaming the globe today, and they illustrate the remarkable adaptability of Carnivorans and bears. Unlike other species of bear, the polar bear is classified as a marine species of animal for its dependence on the sea ice surrounding the north pole. Polar bears rely on the sea ice to hunt its primary source of food, seals, but rising temperatures cause the sea ice to melt earlier in the year. Many polar bears are driven back to the shore before they are are able to build up sufficient fat reserves, and are therefore unable to survive the periods of food scarcity that occur in late summer and early fall. Besides just a lack of food, the reduction of their habitat also affects a pregnant female bear’s ability to create an adequate maternity den, and increases the distances they must travel in order to find suitable denning lands. Many different populations of polar bears are rapidly declining and their conditions only seem to be getting worse. One example of this drastic depopulation is the southern Beaufort Sea, where the population of polar bears has decreased by a staggering 40 percent between just 2001-2010. This population is only one among the many groups of polar bears facing utter destruction as a result of climate change and other effects of human activity. These bears are truly one-of-a-kind and they may be lost forever if we continue our harmful practices.

While the focus of this article, polar bears are far from the only animals facing depopulation, possibly even extinction, from the growing threat of climate change. The reduction of the bears’ habitats not only harms the polar bears, but also affects the entire ecosystem through the removal of an apex predator. The effects of climate change are most drastic in the southern distributions of polar bears where the melting of the ice caps is worst. These bears are left without a habitat, causing them to either perish or invade new habitats. The increasingly desperate situation of polar bears is a direct result of human activity, and they require our help in order to survive. Polar bears are a magnificent, unique species and if they and other creatures like them are to continue existing, humanity must come together and take global action against the extinctions we initiated.