Thursday, December 24, 2015

More polar bears on Norway's Svalbard despite changing ice conditions

Norwegian researchers have found that the polar bear population on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard has increased over the past years despite changes in ice conditions, news agency NTB reported on Wednesday.

In the first census of polar bears earlier this year on Svalbard and the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea since 2004, scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute found the Norwegian polar bear population is now calculated to be about 975, compared to 685 eleven years ago.

Polar researcher and project manager Jon Aars of the institute told NTB there is a degree of uncertainty in the numbers, but the researchers have the necessary grounds to say that there is an increase in the total population and the condition of the bears is good.

"They are in good shape," Aars said. "The ice came early in the autumn of 2014 and was long. It has great significance for the polar bears."

Ice conditions in the Barents Sea area have been poor in most years since 2000 and researchers have been concerned about the polar bear population.

"It is positive that polar bears appear to have fared well in conditions that have been worse over the years. It is good news. But that does not mean the danger is over. If we get several consecutive years of poor ice conditions, the situation can become critical for them," Aars said.

In 2004 there was a total of around 2,650 bears in the entire Barents Sea, including the Russian-controlled areas, Aars said, adding that Russian researchers participated in the 2004 census but declined to cooperate this time.

"So we do not have the full picture," Aars said. "But anyway we believe this year's study shows that polar bears are doing well under the present conditions."

   Xinhua -


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