The Effects of Sea Ice Loss on the Feeding Habits of Polar Bears

Status: Ongoing
Start Date: January 1, 2016
Theme: Resource Management

The Effects of Sea Ice Loss on the Feeding Habits of Polar Bears
PI: Greg Thiemann

Kenneth Molson Foundation

Climate change is profoundly affecting Arctic food webs. However, future changes are difficult to predict because environmental conditions will be outside the range of past observations. Understanding cause-and-effect relationships between wildlife and their environment can improve ability to predict the impact of future environmental change. The project will examine the foraging ecology of polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea and test the hypothesis that declines in polar bear survival and abundance over the last decade have been driven by changes in the availability and nutritional quality of prey, specifically ringed and bearded seals. Quantitative estimates of the diet com position of individual polar bears from 2003 to 2015 will be generated including a decade-long period of rapid sea ice decline and concomitant reduction in polar bear survival and abundance.