Environment, local effects
The Local Environmental Story

It is a stark reality that Arctic sea ice could disappear in the summer sometime between 2013 and 2040. Regardless of exactly when the summer ice will disappear, the downward trend is clear, and shrinking ice cover will change almost everything in the Arctic, and will also be felt globally.


Some Arctic species, such as narwhal, hooded and ringed seals, walrus and polar bears are very dependent on particular ice conditions. They evolved over thousands of years to fit very specific Arctic ice conditions. Now, in a matter of decades those conditions are changing radically. The loss of Arctic ice jeopardizes the very survival of these ice-dependent species.

Ice loss effects will cascade through the entire Arctic food chain. Ice margins are among the most productive zones on Earth, and are central to the food chain, including fish, birds, and mammals. The effects of ice loss are already being felt internationally, especially through changes to the feeding grounds of migratory birds and fish stocks.

Ice provides an important travel route for Arctic land-based species such as caribou and muskox, allowing them to travel between islands and mainland areas.The loss of sea ice opens up larger parts of the Arctic Ocean to activities such as shipping and exploitation of non-renewable resources such as oil and gas. These activities are likely to add further stresses to Arctic ecosystems already feeling the effects of climate change.

The absence of sea ice along Arctic shorelines increases erosion of such areas, washing away infrastructure and even threatening entire coastal communities.The loss and changes in distribution of species are likely to have a profound effect on Arctic peoples who rely on such resources to survive.

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