POLAR BEARS – An Indicator Species

Scientists studying polar bears in the Arctic are not only learning about the bears, they’re gathering important clues on the nature of the Arctic ecosystem. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, Presented by The American Museum of Natural History.

We*re listening to the sounds of a polar bear.

“It is possible to look at bears as an indicator species in the Arctic. There’s a process we call biomagnification of contaminants. That is, as you move up each step of a food chain, you find that contaminant levels get more and more concentrated in the tissues of the organisms. The Arctic marine food chain is very long. And Polar Bears are the organisms at the very top. So, in a sense, by measuring the levels of the contaminants in the tissues of Polar Bears, we do get some idea of just how contaminated the Arctic marine ecosystem is.”

Dr. Malcolm Ramsay is a professor of biology at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. He’s been investigating the impact of global warming on the polar bear.

“The potential for fairly significant rises in temperature in Arctic regions seems to be quite high. And should that happen, especially over a time scale of decades, the possibility of marine mammals being able to adapt rapidly enough is very low. Therefore, because the consequences are so great, we feel that it behooves us to try to find any indications at all of global warming occurring through the monitoring of the polar bear populations.”

“I’d like to think that the future of the polar bear is really quite rosy. And that will be true if societies, peoples and their governments are cognizant of the impact that we’re having in the Arctic and the willingness of people to make changes in our behavior to minimize those impacts. I see my role as supplying the information that politicians and societies can use to make decisions with.”

Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

POLAR BEARS - An Indicator Species

If you want to determine the health of the Arctic ecosystem, find a polar bear.
Air Date:12/11/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

Scientists studying polar bears in the Arctic are not only learning about the bears, they're gathering important clues on the nature of the Arctic ecosystem. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, Presented by The American Museum of Natural History.

We*re listening to the sounds of a polar bear.

"It is possible to look at bears as an indicator species in the Arctic. There's a process we call biomagnification of contaminants. That is, as you move up each step of a food chain, you find that contaminant levels get more and more concentrated in the tissues of the organisms. The Arctic marine food chain is very long. And Polar Bears are the organisms at the very top. So, in a sense, by measuring the levels of the contaminants in the tissues of Polar Bears, we do get some idea of just how contaminated the Arctic marine ecosystem is."

Dr. Malcolm Ramsay is a professor of biology at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. He's been investigating the impact of global warming on the polar bear.

"The potential for fairly significant rises in temperature in Arctic regions seems to be quite high. And should that happen, especially over a time scale of decades, the possibility of marine mammals being able to adapt rapidly enough is very low. Therefore, because the consequences are so great, we feel that it behooves us to try to find any indications at all of global warming occurring through the monitoring of the polar bear populations."

"I'd like to think that the future of the polar bear is really quite rosy. And that will be true if societies, peoples and their governments are cognizant of the impact that we're having in the Arctic and the willingness of people to make changes in our behavior to minimize those impacts. I see my role as supplying the information that politicians and societies can use to make decisions with."

Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.