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A systematic review of the effects of climate variability and change on black and brown bear ecology and interactions with humans

February 14, 2024

Climate change poses a pervasive threat to humans and wildlife by altering resource availability, changing co-occurrences, and directly or indirectly influencing human-wildlife interactions. For many wildlife agencies in North America, managing bears (Ursus spp.) and human-bear interactions is a priority, yet the direct and indirect effects of climate change are exacerbating management challenges. Understanding the underlying ecological drivers of bear responses to climate variability and change, and the implications for conflict, will be critical for maintaining human-bear coexistence in North America. We synthesized 120 articles that identified direct and indirect mechanisms by which climate variability and change affect brown bears (Ursus arctos) and American black bears (Ursus americanus) in North America. The literature focused on examining climate impacts on bear diet, body size, habitat selection, space use, activity, denning chronology, and population demographics and dynamics. Across these categories, we summarized the documented and projected bear responses and resulting implications for human-bear interactions. Climate-driven changes in natural food availability were frequently implicated in influencing bear behavior and demography, and creating conditions under which interactions with humans are likely to increase. Bears in North America may face increased challenges as habitat and natural food availability continue to be altered by climate change. Our review provides a foundation upon which to identify climate drivers of bear ecology, conditions conducive to human-bear interactions, and adaptive management strategies. Given substantial evidence of climate impacts to bears, incorporating climate considerations into bear management can help managers strategically allocate resources and promote human-bear coexistence.

Publication Year 2024
Title A systematic review of the effects of climate variability and change on black and brown bear ecology and interactions with humans
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2024.110500
Authors Katherine Anne Kurth, Kate Malpeli, Joseph D. Clark, Heather E. Johnson, Frank T. van Manen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Conservation
Index ID 70251545
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center; Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center; National Climate Adaptation Science Center