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Using Satellite Telemetry to Define Spatial Population Structure in Polar Bears in the Norwegian and Western Russian Arctic

Mette Mauritzen, Andrew E. Derocher, Øystein Wiig, Stanislav E. Belikov, Andrei N. Boltunov, Edmond Hansen and Gerald W. Garner
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Feb., 2002), pp. 79-90
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/827221
Page Count: 12
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Using Satellite Telemetry to Define Spatial Population Structure in Polar Bears in the Norwegian and Western Russian Arctic
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Abstract

1. Animal populations, defined by geographical areas within a species' distribution where population dynamics are largely regulated by births and deaths rather than by migration from surrounding areas, may be the correct unit for wildlife management. However, in heterogeneous landscapes varying habitat quality may yield subpopulations with distinct patterns in resource use and demography significant to the dynamics of populations. 2. To define the spatial population structure of polar bears Ursus maritimus in the Norwegian and western Russian Arctic, and to assess the existence of a shared population between the two countries, we analysed satellite telemetry data obtained from 105 female polar bears over 12 years. 3. Using both cluster analyses and home-range estimation methods, we identified five population units inhabiting areas with different sea-ice characteristics and prey availability. 4. The continuous distribution of polar bear positions indicated that the different subpopulations formed one continuous polar bear population in the Norwegian and western Russian Arctic. Hence, Norway and Russia have a shared management responsibility. 5. The spatial population structure identified will provide a guide for evaluating geographical patterns in polar bear ecology, the dynamics of polar bear-seal relationships and the effects of habitat alteration due to climate change. The work illustrates the importance of defining population borders and subpopulation structure in understanding the dynamics and management of larger animals.

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