Climate change in Barents and Kara Seas complicates life of polar bears

The Kara Strait between Novaya Zemlya and Vaygach islands connecting the Barents and Kara Seas has not frozen since 2010 seriously complicating the life of polar bears.

Head of the laboratory of biological resources and ethnography of the Arctic at the Institute of Ecological Problems of the North Vladimir Anufriyev told Interfax that polar bears of the Kara-Barents population that numbered some 14,000 species in 2010 are not threatened with extinction, but the current climate change can impact them.

The scientist said that the animals constantly migrate in search of food from areas of the Kara Sea and Novaya Zemlya to the coast of the Barents Sea.

Traditionally the bears crossed the Kara Strait when it was ice-bound but as it does not freeze they have to swim. Due to a strong current the animals spend much more time on their journey and arrive at traditional feeding areas with a serious lag.

Besides, due to the contraction of the ice cover the animals have had to change their breeding places.

Scientists say all this is forcing the bears to change their habits in order to adapt to the new conditions.

"Nobody is studying the problem today. The expanses of the Arctic are vast. There may not be a single animal over a thousand miles while methods of remote counting are labor-consuming and not very effective. More effective methods have not been worked out. There are pilot projects based on information from all ships using the Northern Sea Route. But scientists must analyze an enormous amount of information and this work has not been done," he said.

He said scientists are cautious in making any forecasts about the effect of the climate change on the number of animals. The operations of humans also arouse concern in the context of the survival of the population because in Russia the protection of polar bears is ineffective. Russia is the only country to ban the hunting of the polar bear but the indigenous Arctic peoples still hunt it.


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