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Polar bears are beautiful animals that serve an important part of the ecosystems in which they live. They can also be frightening, and have been known to hunt and kill humans. Polar bears have lost a great deal of habitat to human incursion, and they are losing range and territory to the effects of global warming, which in particular affects the amount of sea ice present.
An ecosystem is highly dependent on all of its parts, and removing even a single species can have potentially drastic consequences. Polar bears are an apex or top of the line predator in areas where they live. They feed on seal, fish and native populations of deer. Several other scavenging carnivores depend at least in part on the kills of polar bears. The failure to save polar bears might result in loss of species like the Arctic fox, which is currently not endangered.
Additionally, all large predators perform a very important function in their habitat: helping to regulate and control the populations of other species. When an animal group loses its natural predators, overpopulation, sickness and mass die offs can result. Moreover, overpopulated groups can have a direct result in underpopulating other groups. A huge boom in population of Arctic seals would have a direct effect on the prey of seals, and could reduce numbers of certain types of fish and crustaceans.
This could have a direct effect on humans, who might have to compete with Arctic seals for food supplies from fish. If people want a more people-centered reason to save polar bears, the lack of polar bears could ultimately affect human food supply and commercial fishing industries. The idea that no species, including humans, lives without depending on others might be the most vital human reason to save this species.
With many arguments existing for why we should save polar bears, there is still another question in play: can they be saved? This is a matter that scientists debate because of what appears to be rapid degradation of the polar bears' environment in recent years due to warming temperatures. In fact, the US Geological Survey has alarming predictions about humankind's ability to rescue the species before it fully declines. If the bears cannot adapt to changing climates, they might face almost total extinction before the end of the 21st century, with about 66% of the animals disappearing by 2050.
There are some things that may help slow warming trends and help delay extinction of polar bears. These include things like finding energy sources that don’t release greenhouse gases and not making any more incursions on polar bear territory that is still stable. Drilling for oil or natural gas in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) might accelerate destruction of this vital species and is looked upon by most environmentalists as a surefire way to subvert any attempts to save polar bears and other endangered or at risk species.
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