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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Long term monitoring of polar bears on Svalbard RIS-12380 (linked to RIS 2381)

Tildelt: kr 48 999

Environmental conditions have changed dramatically in the Svalbard region; sea-ice is declining in extent and thickness; glacier fronts are reduced, and anthropogenic activities are increasing in intensity and extent. These changes impact polar bear habitat use and potentially their fitness through energy expenditure. The link between movement and physiology holds clues to the basic drivers of animal behaviours. In bears, heart rate increases with the metabolic rate. A year round recording of heart rate can then be used to estimate the yearly energy expenditure. Furthermore, by combining GPS location and heart rate time series with environmental variables, it is possible to estimate energy expenditure linked to specific behaviour (resting, walking on land, walking on ice, swimming, or denning). As a spatial ecologist, in this project my research is focused on assessing how environmental conditions influence the polar bears’ behaviour and their energy expenditure. This data is often the missing link in estimating the real cost of changes in behaviour (feg. walking on ice vs swimming) and its consequences for an individual’s fitness. In short, will changes in sea ice conditions lead to greater energy expenditure which could negatively impact individuals’ fitness? During the annual spring campaign, a subsample of adult females will be equipped with subcutaneous heart rate and temperature logger. The logger has a memory capacity of 1 year and data can be retrieved using a non-invasive transcutaneous telemetry system. This method has been successfully previously tested in brown bears (Ursus Arctos).


SSF-Svalbard Science Forum