Effects of global warming are being shown more on social medias, causing pictures to go viral and spread to different types of media. In August, a photo of a severely emaciated polar bear went viral on the Internet. A German nature photographer, Kersten Langenberger, shot the photo of the bear in Svalbard, Norway. Svalbard is known for its polar bear population, making it a known tourist and wildlife photographer hot spot. In the photo, the bear looks like she’s just got out of the water and her hip bones are protruding. In the picture, there are only two small sheets of ice that she can rest on. This detail is important because polar bears use ice sheets to hide themselves from seals that are resting. If there are no ice sheets for the bears to use, then that makes hunting even harder for them. According to the article, a bear set a record of a three-minute dive because there wasn’t enough ice to give it cover to hunt a seal effectively. Before this record, a bear had only been seen making a thirty-second dive.
According to the article, global warming has caused the ice sheets to reach its lowest extent, meaning that the ice sheet no longer reaches to the range it used to. For bears, they rely on the ice because they’re land mammals. They rely on the ice to raise cubs or live on in general, so if their territory is shrinking, then there will be a greater population of bears in a smaller area. This could result in more fighting for prey and then more bears will start starving because the prey population can’t support the bear population.
Since the ice sheets have shrunk in their range, then polar bears will have to start swimming longer distances, looking for ice sheets to live on. Polar bears are capable of swimming, but only for short distances. Warmer temperatures cause the ice sheets to retreat north earlier in the season, and that causes bears to not be able to move with the ice. This has resulted in more bears drowning out of exhaustion.
Also according to the article, the warming waters have brought other types of prey further north, bringing them into contact with the bears. Another photo showed a bear eating a white-beaked dolphin, a species not usually seen that far north. If more prey moves north with the bears, this could help the bear population from getting too depleted. However, if bears are too busy hunting other types of prey, the seal population could get too large and that can disrupt the fish population that they feed on. A small change in the ecosystem could result in large consequences.
Global warming is not only affecting humans, but animals as well. If humans put more effort into decreasing the negative effects of global warming, then we can stop these types of issues from occurring. If we don’t want the polar bear population to become extinct, we need to act now.
Written by Hannah Arios-Wallace, ESLLC2015-2016