Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Polar bear Ursus maritimus conservation in Canada: an ecological basis for identifying designatable units

  • Gregory W. Thiemann (a1), Andrew E. Derocher (a1) and Ian Stirling (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Polar bears Ursus maritimus have a circumpolar distribution that is directly tied to the Arctic sea ice. Although they are wide-ranging, polar bears do not belong to a single population but rather are comprised of 19 largely discrete subpopulations, 13 of which are fully or partly under Canadian jurisdiction. These subpopulations are used to manage the sustainable harvest of polar bears in Canada but for conservation purposes the species is currently considered a single biological unit. Long-term climate warming has reduced the availability of sea ice that polar bears require for feeding, movement and reproduction, and continued declines in ice extent and duration are forecast to have significant negative effects on polar bears in some areas. Under the Canadian Species at Risk Act separate legal protection may be given to intraspecific groups (so called designatable units, DUs) that are genetically, geographically and/or biogeographically distinct. We examined the conservation status of polar bears across their Canadian range and compared large-scale ecosystem properties across subpopulations. We found that threats to the conservation of polar bears are not spatially uniform and we identified five DUs that captured broad patterns of polar bear biodiversity. We conclude that the use of DUs provides a biologically-sound framework for the conservation of polar bears.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Department of Biological Sciences, CW405 Biological Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada. E-mail thiemann@ualberta.ca
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

S.C. Amstrup , I. Stirling , T.S. Smith , C. Perham & G.W Thiemann . (2006) Recent observations of intraspecific predation and cannibalism among polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea. Polar Biology, 29, 9971002.

R. Bethke , M. Taylor , S.C. Amstrup & F Messier . (1996) Population delineation of polar bears using satellite collar data. Ecological Applications, 6, 311317.

J.C Comiso . (2002) A rapidly declining perennial sea ice cover in the Arctic. Geophysical Research Letters, 29, 1956.

J.C. Comiso & C.L Parkinson . (2004) Satellite-observed changes in the Arctic. Physics Today, 57, 3844.

A.E. Derocher , N.J. Lunn & I Stirling . (2004) Polar bears in a warming climate. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 44, 163176.

A.E. Derocher & I Stirling . (1992) The population dynamics of polar bears in western Hudson Bay. In Wildlife 2001: Populations (eds D.R. McCullough & R.H. Barrett ), pp. 11501159. Elsevier Applied Science, London, UK.

A.E. Derocher & I Stirling . (1995) Temporal variation in reproduction and body mass of polar bears in western Hudson Bay. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 73, 16571665.

S.H. Ferguson , M.K. Taylor , E.W. Born , A. Rosing-Asvid & F Messier . (2001) Activity and movement patterns of polar bears inhabiting consolidated versus active pack ice. Arctic, 54, 4954.

A.S. Fischbach , S.C. Amstrup & D.C Douglas . (2007) Landward and eastward shift of Alaskan polar bear denning associated with recent sea ice changes. Polar Biology, 30, 13951405.

D.M Green . (2005) Designatable units for status assessment of endangered species. Conservation Biology, 19, 18131820.

S.J. Iverson , C. Field , W.D. Bowen & W Blanchard . (2004) Quantitative fatty acid signature analysis: a new method of estimating predator diets. Ecological Monographs, 74, 211235.

D.W. Johnston , A.S. Friedlaender , L.G. Torres & D.M Lavigne . (2005) Variation in sea ice cover on the east coast of Canada from 1969 to 2002: climate variability and implications for harp and hooded seals. Climate Research, 29, 209222.

M.C.S. Kingsley , I. Stirling & W Calvert . (1985) The distribution and abundance of seals in the Canadian High Arctic, 1980–82. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 42, 11891210.

J.W Lentfer . (1975) Polar bear denning on drifting sea ice. Journal of Mammalogy, 56, 716718.

M. Mauritzen , A.E. Derocher & Ø Wiig . (2001) Space-use strategies of female polar bears in a dynamic sea ice habitat. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 79, 17041713.

G.W.K Moore . (2006) Reduction in seasonal sea ice concentration surrounding southern Baffin Island 1979–2004. Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L20501.

D. Paetkau , S.C. Amstrup , E.W. Born , W. Calvert , A.E. Derocher , G.W. Garner (1999) Genetic structure of the world's polar bear populations. Molecular Ecology, 8, 15711584.

E.K. Parks , A.E. Derocher & N.J Lunn . (2006) Seasonal and annual movement patterns of polar bears on the sea ice of Hudson Bay. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 84, 12811294.

L.R Pomeroy . (1997) Primary production in the Arctic Ocean estimated from dissolved oxygen. Journal of Marine Systems, 10, 18.

M.A. Ramsay & I Stirling . (1988) Reproductive biology and ecology of female polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Journal of Zoology, 214, 601634.

R.E. Schweinsburg & L.J Lee . (1982) Movement of four satellite-monitored polar bears in Lancaster Sound, Northwest Territories. Arctic, 35, 504511.

R.E. Schweinsburg , W. Spencer & D Williams . (1984) Polar bear denning area at Gateshead Island, Northwest Territories. Arctic, 37, 169171.

T.G. Smith & I Stirling . (1975) The breeding habitat of the ringed seal (Phoca hispida). The birth lair and associated structures. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 53, 12971305.

M.D. Spalding , H.E. Fox , G.R. Allen , N. Davidson , Z.A. Ferdańa , M. Finlayson (2007) Marine ecoregions of the world: a bioregionalization of coastal and shelf areas. BioScience, 57, 573583.

I Stirling . (1980) The biological importance of polynyas in the Canadian Arctic. Arctic, 33, 303315.

I Stirling . (1997) The importance of polynyas, ice edges, and leads to marine mammals and birds. Journal of Marine Systems, 10, 921.

I Stirling . (2002) Polar bears and seals in the eastern Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf: a synthesis of population trends and ecological relationships over three decades. Arctic, 55, Supp. 1, 5976.

I. Stirling , N.J. Lunn & J Iacozza . (1999) Long-term trends in the population ecology of polar bears in western Hudson Bay in relation to climatic change. Arctic, 52, 294306.

I. Stirling & N.A Øritsland . (1995) Relationships between estimates of ringed seal (Phoca hispida) and polar bear (Ursus maritimus) populations in the Canadian Arctic. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 52, 25942612.

J. Stroeve , M.M. Holland , W. Meier , T. Scambos & M Serreze . (2007) Arctic sea ice decline: faster than forecast. Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L09501.

D.V. Subba Rao & T Platt . (1984) Primary production of Arctic waters. Polar Biology, 3, 191201.

M. Taylor & J Lee . (1995) Distribution and abundance of Canadian polar bear populations: a management perspective. Arctic, 48, 147154.

M.K. Taylor , S. Akeeagok , D. Andriashek , W. Barbour , E.W. Born , W. Calvert (2001) Delineating Canadian and Greenland polar bear (Ursus maritimus) populations by cluster analysis of movements. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 79, 690709.

M.K. Taylor , J. Laake , P.D. McLoughlin , H.D. Cluff & F Messier . (2006) Demographic parameters and harvest-explicit population viability analysis for polar bears in M'Clintock Channel, Nunavut, Canada. Journal of Wildlife Management, 70, 16671673.

H.E. Welch , M.A. Bergmann , T.D. Siferd , K.A. Martin , M.F. Curtis , R.E. Crawford (1992) Energy flow through the marine ecosystem of the Lancaster Sound region, Arctic Canada. Arctic, 45, 343357.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Oryx
  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords: