Modeling snowdrift habitat for polar bear dens

Metadata Updated: January 29, 2020

Throughout the Arctic most pregnant polar bears (Ursus maritimus) construct maternity dens in seasonal snowdrifts that form in wind-shadowed areas. We developed and verified a spatial snowdrift polar bearden habitat model (SnowDens-3D) that predicts snowdrift locations and depths along Alaska’s Beaufort Sea coast. SnowDens-3D integrated snow physics, weather data, and a high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM) to produce predictions of the timing, distribution, and growth of snowdrifts suitable for polar bear dens. SnowDens-3D assimilated 18 winters (1995 through 2012) of observed daily meteorological data and a 2.5 m grid-increment DEM covering 337.5 km2 of the Beaufort Sea coast, and described the snowdrift depth distributions on 30 November of each winter to approximate the timing of polar bear den entrance. In this region of Alaska, winds that transport snow come from two dominant directions: approximately NE to E (40–110◦T) and SW to W (210–280◦T). These wind directions control the formation and location of snowdrifts. In this area, the terrestrial, coastal mainland and barrier island banks where polar bear dens are found average approximately 3 m high. These banks create snowdrifts that are roughly 2 m deep, which historical den analyses suggest is approximately the minimum snowdepth required for a polar bear den. We compared observed den locations (n = 55) with model-simulated snow-depth distributions for these 18 winters. For the 31 den locations where position accuracy esti-mates were available in the original field notes, 29 locations (97%) had a simulated snowdrift suitable fordenning within that distance. In addition, the model replicated the observed inter-annual variability in snowdrift size and location at historical den sites, suggesting it simulates interactions between the terrain and annual weather factors that produce the snowdrifts polar bears use for dens. The area of viable den habitat ranged from 0.0 ha to 7.6 ha (0.00–0.02% of the 337.5 km2 simulation domain), depending on the winter. SnowDens-3D is available to help management agencies and industry improve their prediction of current polar bear den sites in order to reduce disturbance of denning bears by winter recreational and industrial activities.

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Metadata Date 2019-01-29T02:08:51-09:00
Metadata Created Date January 29, 2020
Metadata Updated Date January 29, 2020
Reference Date(s) September 15, 2015 (publication)
Frequency Of Update notPlanned

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Harvested from DOI Open Data

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Resource Type Publication
Metadata Date 2019-01-29T02:08:51-09:00
Metadata Created Date January 29, 2020
Metadata Updated Date January 29, 2020
Reference Date(s) September 15, 2015 (publication)
Responsible Party (Point of Contact); Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (Point of Contact, Publisher)
Contact Email
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Bbox East Long -147.48164512607
Bbox North Lat 70.830279807869
Bbox South Lat 69.824504578024
Bbox West Long -152.13984825106
Coupled Resource
Frequency Of Update notPlanned
Guid 6faa48ff-be66-4283-922d-3a9ec4bbaf9f
Harvest Object Id 9e8e5b73-00bb-45e0-8b67-9091f530b679
Harvest Source Id 5b7e4031-1e2d-428b-92e2-56554bbd7371
Harvest Source Title DOI Open Data
Licence While every effort has been made to ensure that these data are accurate and reliable within the limits of the current state of the art, the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative cannot assume liability for any damages caused by any errors or omissions in the data, nor as a result of the failure of the data to function on a particular system. The Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative makes no warranty, expressed or implied, nor does the fact of distribution constitute such a warranty., null
Metadata Language
Metadata Type geospatial
Progress completed
Spatial Data Service Type
Spatial Reference System
Spatial Harvester true
Temporal Extent End 2015-09-15T00:00:00

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