Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Bye Bye Bears

A new report shows that global warming in the Arctic is happening much faster than was anticipated. The sea ice around the North Pole on which the bears depend for hunting is shrinking so swiftly it could disappear during the summer months by the end of the century, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ICIA) says. Polar bears are seen as facing the biggest threat from the melting of the Arctic ice cap by the end of the century, as their hunting grounds are expected to literally slip away from underneath them. Some 20,000 to 30,000 bears still exist. When they come out of hibernation, the bears would be surprised to see the ice receding earlier in the season every year. Their dilemma would be to remain on land where they risk dying of starvation, or to swim increasing distances to reach the ice to hunt for food. The greater distances mean the polar bears would lose a lot of weight, which could affect their reproductive systems, and also implies that females would have to leave their young behind to face a certain death.

The Arctic region is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, and its ice cap could melt away entirely during the milder summer months by the year 2100, according to the conclusions of an Arctic climate research team. The process is inevitable unless there is a massive reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, researchers warn.

The death knell could also be sounded for other species dependent on the ice, such as the ringed seal, bearded seal and little auk.

As global warming increases, forests will increasingly sprout up in the southern parts of the Arctic, pushing the frozen tundra landscape -- and its wildlife of caribou, arctic fox, ptarmigan and insects -- further north. "What we predict is that the biodiversity will increase. But the species that are extremely well adapted to an Arctic environment are vulnerable," Callaghan said.

For those species that do manage to survive the changes of global warming, their way of life will undergo drastic changes, as the arrival of new rival species and parasites will create a new hierarchy in the animal kingdom. Reindeer or caribou herds will lose their natural grazing grounds and herders will need to find new routes between seasonal pasture areas.

Birds' migration routes and cycles are also likely to be affected by climate change as they will have to fly greater distances. Their migration could even affect the ecosystem thousands of kilometers away. (


At 12:56 AM, Blogger Siobhain said...

People need to be told exactly how they are destroying the earth, bit by bit.Every person on this beautiful planet is responsible, and has the duty to at least try and save the homes of all the animals, that we are barrowing from them. People think what they do alone will not make a slight bit of difference, but we ALL need to try.
There is no point just talking and singing about it,just do something,anything will help.Switch to energy save light bulbs, something that simple will help.


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