May 19, 2009

Study: Climate change affects polar bears

A U.S. study refutes a publicized criticism of the negative effects of climate change on polar bears, supporting the listing of them as a threatened species.

The study -- conducted by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Universities of Alaska and Maryland, the Canadian Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service -- refutes point-by-point the criticism of negative polar bear population predictions. The new study is said to reinforce the U.S. Department of Interior's May 2008 decision to list polar bears as a threatened species.

The decision to list the polar bear as threatened was politically charged, and the scientific research on which it was based attracted some criticisms, Woods Hole biologist Hal Caswell said. Our new study shows that "¦ (those criticisms were) based on misconceptions about climate models, the arctic environment, polar bear biology and statistical and mathematical methods.

The new research appeared in the April 22 online edition of the journal Interfaces and is to appear in that journal's July-August print edition.