Synergistic effects of sea ice-free periods and contaminant exposure on energy metabolism in polar bears (BearEnergy)

The combination of the effects of pollutants and climate change has been hypothesized to be a worst-case scenario for arctic wildlife. The Barents Sea subpopulation of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) is subject to pronounced loss of sea ice habitat due to changing climate. In addition, this subpopulation is defined as a “hotspot” population in terms of contaminant exposure in Arctic wildlife. Prolongation of sea ice-free summer seasons is expected to challenge polar bears energetically. Since recent knowledge suggests that contaminants may interfere with energy metabolism, we hypothesize that exposure to contaminants may lead to suboptimal energy metabolism during sea ice-free periods in polar bears. In order to explore the hypothesis, we will compare aspects related to fasting and health status, energy metabolism and contaminant exposure in polar bear sampled from Svalbard
first in spring (April) and re-sampled the following autumn (September).