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Conservation and management of Canada’s polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in a changing Arctic

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Canada has an important responsibility for the research, conservation, and management of polar bears (Ursus maritimus Phipps, 1774) because the majority of polar bears in the world occur within the nation’s borders. Two fundamental and recent changes for polar bears and their conservation have arisen: (1) the ongoing and projected further decline of sea-ice habitat as a result of climate change and (2) the implementation of aboriginal land claims and treaties in Canada’s North. Science has documented empirical links between productivity of polar bear population and sea-ice change. Predictive modeling based on these data has forecast significant declines in polar bear abundance and distribution of polar bears. With the signing of northern land claims and treaties, polar bear management in Canada has integrated local aboriginal participation, values, and knowledge. The interaction of scientific and local perspectives on polar bears as they relate to harvest, climate change, and declining habitat has recently caused controversy. Some conservation, management, and research decisions have been contentious because of gaps in scientific knowledge and the polarization and politicization of the roles of the various stakeholders. With these ecological and governance transitions, there is a need to re-focus and re-direct polar bear conservation in Canada.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Environment, Government of Nunavut, Igloolik, NU X0A 0L0 Canada. 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9 Canada. 3: Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3 Canada.

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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