e-Learning portal for Arctic Biology

1.1.3 Global context

The Arctic is an integral part of many global systems. Some examples are: 

  • Each year several hundred million birds and fish migrate to the Arctic and their success in the Arctic determines their survival and their impacts at lower latitudes.
  • Climate change in the Arctic is connected to changes on a global scale. For example, ice melt in arctic regions affects sea levels worldwide (climate and ocean system feedbacks).
  • The Arctic is an important source/sink of CO2 and methane.
  • Pollutants produced by human activity at lower latitudes accumulate rapidly in the Arctic, with complicated consequences.
  • The retreat of sea ice, together with improved technological solutions, have resulted in increased human activity in the Arctic and, consequently, greater potential human impact on the biology of the system.

Arctic terrestrial fauna and flora present a series of adaptations allowing them to take advantage of, and ultimately survive under extreme conditions. Species adapted to cold habitats are particularly sensitive to warmer winter temperatures, increased frequency of extreme events such as freeze–thaw cycles and surface icing, changes in snow fall and snow lie, and pollutant load. Therefore, many arctic species are likely to be affected by global and local climate change. In the Arctic, in an era of rapid and widespread environmental change, the need for targeted conservation strategies and carefully considered use of natural resources has never been more pressing (Greenslade 2008). This can only be achieved by collaboration between nations. 

Further reading: