The rapid melting of Arctic sea ice poses a serious threat to the survival of polar bears, which use it as a seal hunting platform. However, scientists have discovered a new population of the vulnerable species in southeastern Greenland, which uses pieces of ice that break away from the region's freshwater glaciers, AFP reported.
The rapid melting of Arctic sea ice poses a serious threat to the survival of polar bears, which use it as a seal hunting platform.
However, scientists have discovered a new population of the vulnerable species in southeastern Greenland, which uses pieces of ice that break away from the region's freshwater glaciers, AFP reported.
The discovery of the population, described in a publication in the prestigious Science magazine, increases the chances of at least some members of the species surviving this century, knowing that Arctic sea ice is expected to disappear completely in the summer.
According to Christine Leidre of the University of Washington and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, one of the big questions is where polar bears can be kept.
"I think the new population can give us some answers," she said.
In 20 years, the ice in Greenland has decreased by 4700 billion tons
Leidre and her colleagues initially spent two years interviewing Inuit hunters.
Subsequently, in the period between 2015 and 2021, scientists began working in the field, in a region that is not well studied due to its unpredictable weather, heavy snowfall and mountains.
Each year, researchers spend a month there in the spring, settling as close as possible to the polar bear habitat.
It is estimated that the new population numbers several hundred individuals.
The bears were equipped with satellite tracking devices.
Scientists have collected DNA samples by capturing some of them or by using arrows to take a biopsy.
"It's the most genetically isolated polar bear population on the planet," said Beth Shapiro, co-author of the study and a geneticist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
"We know that this population has lived in isolation from other polar bears for at least several hundred years," she added.
Unlike their cousins, these animals are more like housewives and do not go far to hunt.
Their isolation is due to the geographical location of their home: an intricate landscape of fjords at the southern tip of Greenland, far below the Arctic Circle, with no place to go.
Impressive mountains rise to the west and the rapid flow of the Danish Strait to the east.
When they are carried away by this current, the bears jump off the ice and return to their fjords, explains Christine Leidre.
According to researchers, some animals had to travel more than 150 kilometers to return home.
While sea ice provides a hunting platform for most of the approximately 26,000 polar bears in the Arctic, their "cousins" in southeastern Greenland have access to it in just four months, from February to the end of May.
For the remaining eight months, polar bears rely on pieces of freshwater ice that break off glaciers and end up directly in the sea.
Much remains to be studied in polar bears in this part of Greenland.
Measurements show that older females are smaller and appear to be smaller.
However, due to the lack of long-term data, it is difficult to draw conclusions.
Greenland has not always been covered in ice
Christine Leidre warns not to place too much hope on the current study.
Polar bears - iconic animals in themselves, but also a valuable resource for the people of the region, will not be saved unless urgent action is taken to combat climate change.
However, the population of Greenland may have a better chance of survival than others.
In other Greenlandic regions, there are also glaciers that end directly in the sea.
In the future, they may become small climate refuges, adds BTA.