The polar bear stranded on an ever shrinking ice berg has become a symbol of the evils of global warming but in the interests of species balance I bring you this research. You could call, I suppose, a 10-year study by University of Alberta biologist Scott Nielsen and his colleagues that monitored 112 bears in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain region, “warm the world and save the grizzly”. The team found that warmer temperatures and easier access to food associated with forest disturbances helped the grizzlies to build more body fat, known to increase the chances of successful reproduction for mothers.
The findings, to be published in BMC Ecology, are that in years when warmer temperatures and less late winter snow brought on earlier spring conditions, the body size of bears as adults was larger. Smaller bears were found in colder and less productive environments or years that were abnormally cool.
“We hypothesize that warmer temperatures in this ecosystem, especially during late winter and spring, may not be such a bad thing for grizzlies,” Nielsen said, noting that historically the range for the bears once extended as far south as Mexico and persists today even in the deserts of Mongolia. “That suggests the species won’t likely be limited by rising temperatures which would lengthen the growing season and the time needed to fatten prior to hibernation.”