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Human-polar bear interactions in a changing Arctic: Existing and emerging concerns

November 29, 2017

The behavior and sociality of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have been shaped by evolved preferences for sea ice habitat and preying on marine mammals. However, human behavior is causing changes to the Arctic marine ecosystem through the influence of greenhouse gas emissions that drive long-term change in ecosystem processes and via the presence of in situ stressors associated with increasing human activities. These changes are making it more difficult for polar bears to reliably use their traditional habitats and maintain fitness. Here, we provide an overview of how human activities in the Arctic are likely to change a polar bear’s behavior and to influence their resilience to environmental change. Developing a more thorough understanding of polar bear behavior and their capacity for flexibility in response to anthropogenic disturbances and subsequent mitigations may lead to successful near-term management interventions.