Reply to response to Dyck on polar bears and climate change in western Hudson Bay

By | December 10, 2008


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We address the three main issues raised by Stirling et al. [Stirling, I., Derocher, A.E., Gough, W.A., Rode, K., in press. Response to Dyck et al. (2007) on polar bears and climate change in western Hudson Bay. Ecol. Complexity]: (1) evidence of the role of climate warming in affecting the western Hudson Bay polar bear population, (2) responses to suggested importance of human–polar bear interactions, and (3) limitations on polar bear adaptation to projected climate change. We assert that our original paper did not provide any ‘‘alternative explanations [that] are largely unsupported by the data’’ or misrepresent the original claims by Stirling et al. [Stirling, I., Lunn, N.J., Iacozza, I., 1999. Long-term trends in the population ecology of polar bears in western Hudson Bay in relation to climate change. Arctic 52, 294– 306], Derocher et al. [Derocher, A.E., Lunn, N.J., Stirling, I., 2004. Polar bears in a warming climate. Integr. Comp. Biol. 44, 163–176], and other peer-approved papers authored by Stirling and colleagues. In sharp contrast, we show that the conclusion of Stirling et al. [Stirling, I., Derocher, A.E., Gough, W.A., Rode, K., in press. Response to Dyck et al. (2007) on polar bears and climate change in western Hudson Bay. Ecol. Complexity] – suggesting warming temperatures (and other related climatic changes) are the predominant determinant of polar bear population status, not only in western Hudson (WH) Bay but also for populations elsewhere in the Arctic – is unsupportable by the current scientific evidence.

The commentary by Stirling et al. [Stirling, I., Derocher, A.E., Gough, W.A., Rode, K., in press. Response to Dyck et al. (2007) on polar bears and climate change in western Hudson Bay. Ecol. Complexity] is an example of uni-dimensional, or reductionist thinking, which is not useful when assessing effects of climate change on complex ecosystems. Polar bears of WH are exposed to a multitude of environmental perturbations including human interference and factors (e.g., unknown seal population size, possible competition with polar Stirling et al. (2008) contains claims that are inconsistent with the underlying data and the papers they refer to; most of which were written by Stirling and colleagues themselves. For example, in their abstract, Stirling et al. (2008) argue that the ‘‘decline’’ in theWHpolar bear (Ursusmaritimus) populationhas ‘‘accelerated over time’’. However, Fig. 1, adopted directly from Regehr et al. (2007), shows that the decline has been constant.