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Polar Bear Ecology and Management in Hudson Bay in the Face of Climate Change

  • E. PeacockEmail author
  • A. E. Derocher
  • N. J. Lunn
  • M. E. Obbard

Abstract

Hudson Bay, Canada has been a region of intensive research on polar bear population ecology dating back to the late 1960s. Although the impacts of climate change on sea ice habitat throughout the circumpolar range of the species is of concern, Hudson Bay is the only region where the duration of sea ice cover has been linked empirically with declines in a suite of parameters: polar bear body condition; individual survival; natality; and population size. Research in Hudson Bay has also focused on contaminants in polar bear tissues, population genetics, behaviour and denning, as well as predator-prey interactions. These decades of research in Hudson Bay provide important baseline information with which to monitor the rate and extent of the impact of climate change on polar bear ecology. Climate change has already become a critical issue for polar bear management in the region; human–bear conflicts in Nunavut have increased, which had been an explicit prediction of an effect of climate change. In addition, relative to polar bear numbers in the early 1960s – before government-based harvest management – polar bear abundance has also increased. The recent empirical data demonstrating a decline in the Western Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation has been interpreted as incongruous with observations of respected Inuit elders of the marked increase in polar bears from historical numbers, catalyzing divergent views on polar bear management. Lastly, should the duration of the ice-free season continue to increase, industrial shipping and future mining and oil and gas developments will affect polar bears in the region in ways that are not well understood. We review current knowledge of polar bear ecology in Hudson Bay, as it relates to climate change, and present an overview of future research needs and management challenges.

Keywords

Polar bear Hudson Bay Climate change Harvest management Human-bear interactions Denning Protected areas Shipping Tourism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Peacock
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. E. Derocher
  • N. J. Lunn
  • M. E. Obbard
  1. 1.Wildlife Research Section, Department of EnvironmentGovernment of NunavutIgloolikCanada

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