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Polar Bears Are Facing New Challenge Caused By Global Warming

9 June 2017, 12:00 pm EDT By Steve Bowman Tech Times
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Global warming may be forcing polar bears to continuously move eastward to counter the westward drift of ice. A study revealed that adult female polar bears spend almost four times more energy each year to make this journey.  ( Jeff J. Mitchell | Getty Images )

The effects of global warming are being felt all over the world, but polar bears are one of the worst hit in the animal kingdom due to climate change effects.

A new research reveals that polar bears have to keep moving eastward continuously because of the increased westward sea ice drift in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Researchers from the University of Wyoming and the U.S. Geological Survey conducted the new study.

Polar Bears Moving Eastward: How Was the Research Conducted?

Researchers observed radio-tracking data belonging to collared adult female polar bears in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The collars relayed data regarding the movement patterns and also the amount of energy these polar bears spent.

The physiological data was coupled with the sea ice drift recordings in the region, which the National Snow and Ice Data Center or NSIDC had gathered.

The data of more than 77,000 polar bear locations and the subsequent sea ice drift in these areas were analyzed in two distinct research periods. The first period started in 1987 and ended in 1998, while the second period commenced in 1999 and continued till 2013.

"This study demonstrates the unparalleled value of long-term uninterrupted data collection. Without access to the ice data from NSIDC, and the interagency and international cooperation, we could not have conducted this project," Wyoming University's Merav Ben-David shared.

Why Are Polar Bears Moving Eastward?

The constant movement of the sea ice drift westward forced the polar bears to continuously move eastward to maintain their ecological habitat, as well as the ideal temperatures in which the creature can thrive.

This continuous eastward movement is causing the polar bears excess physiological stress as they have to spend more energy while journeying in this direction across the snow. The researchers revealed that during the second period, an adult female polar bear required 2,800,000 to 3,200,000 kcal each year.

This was around 51,000 to 107,000 kcal more than the requisite amount found in the first period. The energy expenditure in the second period was almost four times more than the total energy needs of a standard adult female polar bear.

Researchers estimated that the polar bears had to consume one to three more seals than normal to make up for the extra energy being spent in the constant eastward movement. However, hunting seals has also become a difficult prospect for the creatures because of the early melting of sea ice in spring.

The sea ice is an essential aspect of the polar bears' hunting routine, without which most are unable to get hold of their prey.

The study's results were published in the journal Global Change Biology on Tuesday, June 6.

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