Welcome

The official website for the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission

The mission of the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) is to coordinate, synthesize, and distribute scientific information necessary to guide the long-term viability of polar bears and their habitats. Among other roles, the PBSG serves as the scientific advisory body to the polar bear Range States in support of the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. The PBSG identifies research, management, and conservation priorities for polar bears and their habitats, and disseminates this information to policy makers and the public.

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Credit: Kt Miller

What is the PBSG?

We're a group of professionals who specialise in the research and management of polar bears throughout their range.

The Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) was established under the auspices of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) following the First International Scientific Meeting on the Polar Bear held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in September 1965.  The authoritative source of scientific information on the world’s polar bears, the PBSG was established in 1965 and is part of the IUCN SSC’s science-based network of more than 140 Specialist Groups, Red List Authorities and Task Forces that work to produce and compile scientific knowledge about the world’s species and provide independent scientific advice to the IUCN, decision makers, management authorities, and public.

Among other objectives, the Group strives to promote and develop scientific information for the long-term conservation and sustainable management of polar bears; to coordinate inter-jurisdictional research, monitoring, and management; to identify anthropogenic threats to polar bears and define possible solutions; and to assure actions of the PBSG reflect all tenets of the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears.

collaborative

The PBSG is comprised of up to 35 members appointed based on their direct and relevant expertise in polar bear research, management, conservation, or education. Members come from government agencies, academic institutions, and not-for-profit organizations.

Scientific

The PBSG strives to provide the best possible scientific and technical information on polar bears to both policymakers and the public. The Group provides scientific advice with regard to the IUCN Red List, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and other international and national conventions.

independent

PBSG members provide independent expertise to the Group, which strives towards consensus in making decisions. Collectively, the Group provides independent scientific advice to the five polar bear Range States in support of the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears.

Our latest Status Report

In July 2021, we released our latest status report on the world’s polar bear subpopulations. It includes estimated subpopulation sizes and associated uncertainty in those estimates, subpopulation trends, changes in sea-ice habitat, recent human-caused mortality, and summaries of subpopulation-specific concerns and vulnerabilities.

The full report and latest status table can be downloaded as a combined document below.

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The most recent estimate of global abundance (95% Confidence Interval [CI] = 22,000–31,000; Regehr et al. 2016, Biology Letters 12:20160556)
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Credit: Kt Miller

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The number of global subpopulations of polar bears, distributed throughout the circumpolar Arctic
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Credit: Kt Miller

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The mean rate of decline in summer sea ice area across all subpopulations (percent change per decade)
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Credit: Andrew Derocher

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The number of polar bear subpopulations that have increased over the long term (≥2 polar bear generations [≥23 yr])
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Credit: Kt Miller

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The number of polar bear subpopulations that have decreased over the long term (≥2 polar bear generations [≥23 yr])

Credit: Kristin Laidre

A word from our co-chairs

The Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) is composed of skilled and dedicated professionals who volunteer their scientific expertise to help conserve polar bears and advance the goals of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). As we enter the next quadrennial cycle of the IUCN, we are privileged to have been elected co-chairs of the PBSG.

The mission of the PBSG is to coordinate, synthesize, and distribute scientific information needed to protect the long‐term viability of polar bears and their habitats. The group’s work is as important now as it was in the 1960s when the PBSG was established. Scientific research, improved harvest management, and the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears have addressed some threats to polar bears. However, new threats have emerged, with the primary challenge to polar bear conservation in the 21st century being the loss of sea ice due to climate warming, combined with other anthropogenic stressors.

Mitigating climate warming and its effects on polar bears will require sustained individual and global action. The PBSG will continue with collaborative scientific research and synthesis that is needed to inform polar bear management and conservation by the IUCN, the five Polar Bear Range States (Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and USA), regional management authorities, and the people that live in polar bear country.

Dr. Nick Lunn and Dr. Kristin Laidre

PBSG co-chairs 2021 – 2025

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