New research recently found that polar bear populations have seen a 10-percent loss in their genetic diversity between 1995 and 2016.

CBS News report specified that the main driver for the drop among the two generations of these bears examined in that time is the quick loss of ice in the Barents Sea, as it's causing harmful ecological and demographic impacts on animals.

Essentially, climate change is quickly melting sea ice in the Arctic, leading to large-scale changes in the manner polar bears are able to work, this new study showed.

Specifically, in Norway, the researchers discovered, the bears are inbreeding as the species fights for survival.

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Science Times - Polar Bear Populations See 10-Percent Loss in Generic Diversity; Study Cites Rapid Arctic Ice Melting as Primary Driver for the Decline
(Photo : Andreas Weith on Wikimedia Commons)
Polar bear in the drift ice region north of Svalbard

Most Rapid Arctic Ice Melting

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Barents Sea is going through the most rapid "loss of sea ice," throughout the Arctic.

Polar bears are dependent on the ice in search of food, reproduction, and movement, and as sea ice continuously melts, the animals turn less capable of conducting the activities vital to their survival.

 Pelagic bears, in particular, those wandering on the sea ice, and only occasionally moving to shore, are experiencing increased difficulty searching for access to land at all, explained the scientists.

As specified in the study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the bears have been observed as becoming more and more "separated from their denning grounds," where they go and stay while they are pregnant.

Meanwhile, the bears living on the coast of Svalbard are experiencing other issues resulting from climate change. With less sea ice that exists, there are lesser chances of hunting for seals, driving bears to change their diets to eat more bird eggs and birds.

In other Arctic areas, polar bears turned even more cannibalistic as their sources of food have been decreasing.

Loss of Ice Affecting Mating opportunities of Polar Bears

The loss of ice affected the mating opportunities of polar bears as well, and their subpopulations' ability to scatter to other sites, the research showed, leading to some of the animals inbreeding for their groups to stay alive.

The research specified, the level of inbreeding is low as of today, although as groups of polar bears turn more isolated due to their melting habitat, inbreeding may increase later on. Most likely, the researchers explained in their study, with adverse impacts like "inbreeding depression."

The study's lead author Simo Njabulo Maduna said the findings could be an advanced warning "of a grim future of for polar bears."

It would be bothersome due to the drop in, or loss of genetic diversity, and possible inbreeding depression could lead to reduced survival and productivity for this iconic bear species.

A study carried out in 2020 found that the melting sea ice starves polar bears and that within a hundred years, polar bears could be non-existent. As the study specified, decreasing genetic diversity increases the danger of extinction.

The researchers wrote, the loss of genetic diversity's rate and magnitude, as well as the gene flow they observed is upsetting, considering that polar bears have historically exhibited relatively small genetic diversity even on a global measure.

Related information about polar bears is shown on WWFArcticProgramme's YouTube video below:


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