Moving Polar Bears South
Ya gotta love people who focus on the little picture rather than the big one. And yes considering the nature of what I do on this blog that is the ultimate in hypocritical statements – Just the same :-).
Jessica Hellmann proposes that maybe we should move polar bearsfrom the North Pole, where the ice cap is more progressively disappearing, to the south pole where the ice cap is still disappearing but not exactly at the same pace. The concept being that while we are trying to reduce carbon dioxide levels, we should maybe give nature a helping hand by moving some of these species around to climates better suited to their sustainability.
The problem I have with this is that every time humans have interferred with the natural food chain in a specific area we have screwed things up so massively as to be unrepairable.
Let’s follow the logic in the case of polar bears just as an example. Assume we move 200 polar bears from the North Pole to the south. Yes there are seals in this area which are one of the primary food sources, but there are also a number of other prey that are not adapted to the presence of such a large land carnivore roaming around. Penguins for example will not have defensive mechanisms against Polar Bears and it would simply be like shooting fish in a barrel. Seals, who in the north create dens in the ice flows where they have an escape route under the sea ice will have no such protection in the south as most of Antarctica is a solid land mass. Again – like shooting fish in a barrel.
Mammals tend to bred based upon the availability of their food sources until they establish a natural equilibrium with the other plants and animals in the area which sustain them (present company excepted of course). With a very large abundant supply of food, Polar Bear populations in the south would tend to explode which would put further pressure on other already delicate food chain equilibriums. Such a situation would have radical implications for the entire food web all for the sake of those few animals at the top of the food chain which are, arguably, the most adaptable to changing circumstances.
In short – good idea, lousy execution.
The health of any ecosystem is only as good as its weakest link. If these people really want to make a difference then find the weak link in the food web and focus on the sustainability issues that impact the health and viability of that component. Polar Bears have adapted to global warming episodes in the past (Greenland was called Greenland for a reason in the not too distant past) and they will endure this one. The issue for Polar Bears is not the lack of accessibility of sea ice, it is the endangerment and accessibility of their food sources. Which means the weak link is further down in the food web.
Unfortunately it is always easier to apply a band-aid to the wound we can see rather than treating the internal causes. Hopefully that doesn’t mean transporting Polar Bears to Antarctica; something that will cause more harm than good I fear. – K