In 2007-08, to inform the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision, whether or not to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), we projected the status of the world’s polar bears (Ursus maritimus) for decades centered on future years 2025, 2050, 2075, and 2095. We defined four ecoregions based on current and projected sea ice conditions: seasonal ice, Canadian Archipelago, polar basin divergent, and polar basin convergent ecoregions. We incorporated general circulation model projections of future sea ice into a Bayesian network (BN) model structured around the factors considered in ESA decisions. This first-generation (Phase I) BN model combined empirical data, interpretations of data, and professional judgments of one polar bear expert into a probabilistic framework that identifies causal links between environmental stressors and polar bear responses. The BN model projected extirpation of polar bears from the seasonal ice and polar basin divergent ecoregions, where ≈2/3 of the world’s polar bears currently occur, by mid century. Decline in ice habitat was the overriding factor driving the model outcomes.
The Polar Bear Stressor Model, Phase II (2016) can be found here: <abnms.org...>