Magazine article UN Chronicle

Bare Sanctuaries

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Bare Sanctuaries

Article excerpt

Loss of habitat is the greatest threat to biological diversity, and 85 per cent of the species on the 2006 Norwegian red list are threatened by changes in habitat. Highly-specialized species appear to be the most vulnerable. The polar bear is one such species, and the extent and sustainability of sea ice is essential for its survival. The global population of polar bears consists of roughly 20,000-25,000 individuals spread between 19 sub-populations. However, polar bears wander across enormous distances, so there are no major genetic differences between these populations. On Svalbard, for instance, polar bears live mainly in areas where there is sea ice, and most of them are therefore found along the eastern coast and in the fjords in the north. The most important hibernation areas on Svalbard are located on the islands of Kongsoya, Svenskoya, Edgeoya, Nordaustlandet and Hopen. However, because the sea ice is retreating as a result of climate change, polar bears have stopped hibernating on Hopen. …

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