Polar bear habitat

Polar bears depend on sea ice

Polar bears are found throughout the circumpolar Arctic...
  • along or near coasts
  • on islands
  • and most importantly, on sea ice.


Why is sea ice important?

Polar bears live on the annual arctic sea ice that provides a platform from which they can hunt, live, breed, and in some cases create maternal dens.

Sea ice is more than a simple platform: it is an entire ecosystem inhabited by plankton and micro-organisms, which support a rich food chain that nourishes seals that in turn become prey for polar bears.

It is the very foundation and defining characteristic of the arctic marine ecosystem.


What's happening to sea ice?

As the climate warms, Arctic sea ice is disappearing. Almost every summer, the amount of remaining ice gets smaller. The oldest ice has essentially disappeared.


This time-lapse video from NASA shows how the extent of sea ice has changed since the 1980s.

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