ARCTIC REGION
     


The Arctic is a located at the northernmost part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. The Arctic region consists of a vast ocean with a seasonally varying ice cover, surrounded by treeless permafrost. The area can be defined as north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33'N), the approximate limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. Alternatively, it can be defined as the region where the average temperature for the warmest month (July) is below 10 °C (50 °F); the northernmost tree line roughly follows the isotherm at the boundary of this region.

Almost four million people live in the Arctic today, with the precise number depending on where the boundary is drawn. They include indigenous people and recent arrivals, hunters and herders living on the land, and city dwellers. Many distinct indigenous groups are found only in the Arctic, where they continue traditional activities and adapt to the modern world at the same time.

Populations are changing and northern regions are becoming more tightly related economically, politically, and socially to national mainstreams. Life expectancy has increased greatly across most of the Arctic in recent decades. The prevalence of indigenous language use, however, has decreased in most areas, with several languages in danger of disappearing in coming decades. In some respects, the disparities between northern and southern arctic communities in terms of living standards, income, and education are decreasing, although the gaps remain large in most cases.

The economy of the region is based largely on natural resources, from oil, gas, and metal ores to fish, reindeer, caribou, whales, seals and birds. In recent decades, tourism has added a growing sector to the economies of many communities and regions of the Arctic. Government services including the military are also a major part of the economy in nearly all areas of the Arctic, responsible in some cases for over half of the available jobs. In addition to the cash economy, traditional subsistence and barter economies make a major contribution to the overall well-being of parts of the region, producing significant value that is not recorded in official statistics.

Socially and politically, the Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states, although by natural science definitions much of this territory is considered subarctic. The Arctic region is a unique area among Earth's ecosystems. The cultures in the region and the Arctic indigenous peoples have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions. In recent years the extent of the sea ice has declined. Life in the Arctic includes organisms living in the ice, zooplankton and phytoplankton, fish and marine mammals, birds, land animals, plants and human societies

To promote sustainable development in the Arctic region, including economic and social development, improved health conditions and cultural well-being for Arctic peoples, the Arctic Council is established in 1996. The Ottawa Declaration formally founded the Council as a high-level intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues; in particular, issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

Amoung the eight Arctic States as mentioned above, also six international organisations representing Arctic Indigenous Peoples have permanent participant status. The Arctic contains a wealth of petroleum and mineral resources. Currently, the region produces about one tenth of the world’s oil and a quarter of its natural gas. The Russian Arctic is the source for about 80 percent of this oil and virtually all of the natural gas; Arctic Canada, Alaska, and Norway are the other leading producers. Recent appraisals suggest that a considerable fraction of the world’s undiscovered petroleum reserves lie within the Arctic.

The most developed sector of the region, the Russian Arctic also holds abundant deposits of nickel, copper, coal, gold, uranium, tungsten, and diamonds. As well, the North American Arctic contains pockets of uranium, copper, nickel, iron, natural gas, and oil. However, many known mineral reserves have not been exploited because of their inaccessibility and the steep development costs.

ice analyses

Biological resources are similarly bountiful in the Far North. An estimated one-fifth of freshwater and several of the world’s largest rivers are found there. The region encompasses one of the last and most extensive, continuous wilderness areas on Earth, and it is home to hundreds of endemic species of plants and animals. Millions of migratory birds from around the globe breed and live seasonally in the Arctic and a variety of marine mammals inhabit the regional ocean waters. Fish such as salmon, cod, and pollock abound in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, supporting valuable commercial fisheries. Some two dozen major herds of reindeer and caribou, important resources for indigenous peoples, migrate across high northern landscapes. In sum, humans gain much from the Arctic’s living resources, and the region is uniquely important to global biodiversity.

Climate change in the Far North is expected to transform the outlook on natural resources there.  As rising temperatures accelerate the melting of ice on land and at sea, the prospects for expanding transportation corridors, mineral resource development, and tourism will grow. At the same time living resources will face new pressures. Future developments could well bring considerable new wealth to Arctic state economies, but also significant consequences for northern peoples and environments.