Environmentally Unfriendly: Top Threats to the Arctic Ecosystem

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Top Threats to the Arctic Ecosystem

This guest post is by Douglas Santos of savebiogems.org.

The damage being done to our planet is perhaps most noticeable in the Arctic region. The Arctic ecosystem has been put through the ringer, polluted and altered in ways that can pull at the heartstrings of the stoutest individuals. Pollution and chemicals from around the world cumulate in the Arctic area, carried from warmer climates on air and water currents to sit at the northernmost region of the world. Some threats are more damaging to the Arctic than others, and there is something humans can do about them.

1. Persistent Organic Pollutants

Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs, are man-made chemicals that travel to the arctic area by both water and air. These chemicals come from plastics, pesticides and electronic equipment, and exposed animals cannot rid their bodies of the chemicals once they are ingested through their diet. The higher up the food chain an animal is, the more exposed they are to these chemicals, meaning that top predators like polar bears are especially at risk for chemical poisoning. Choosing natural products helps reduce these man-made chemicals in the Arctic.

2. Product Shipping

The Arctic Circle is located in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with over 7,000 cargo and oil ships traveling through local waters each year. Ships leak oil, gasoline and other contaminants into the water, harming local wildlife and adding more chemicals to an already polluted area. Large ships also pose a threat to even the largest of marine mammals, the whales, and it is estimated that about 90 percent of all whales killed by humans are from physical contact with ships. Buying more locally can eliminate the need of some of these ships.

Arctic frozen landscape, aerial photograph

Image by adrian, acediscovery on Flickr

3. Oil Drilling

Crude oil is used to create so many products that people use every single day. It is found in plastics, gasoline, detergents, fertilizers and so much more. As the natural resource becomes scarcer, oil drilling experts have been forced to look for new deposits of the precious black liquid to fill consumers’ demand for the petrochemical products made from it.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic region poses a special challenge due to the ice that covers the area. The ice pack means that complex structures must be built so drillers can reach the oil, destroying natural habitat areas. The ice also makes it nearly impossible to reach the area quickly if there is an oil spill or other pipeline disaster, polluting the area even further.

4. Climate Change

Even if you don’t believe the research showing humans are contributing to climate change, the impact of climate change on the Arctic is undeniable. Shrinking ice coverage may make it easier to drill for oil in some areas of the region, but it is devastating to the ecosystem. Polar bears and walruses are losing their habitats, forcing them to look for more dangerous areas for them to call home. The ocean water is becoming more acidic, killing off plankton and that salmon and whales feed on. Climate change really is changing our planet, and humans can help slow the effects by changing behaviors.

Using more environmentally-friendly products can help stop the effects of these threats against the Arctic region. The changes start at home with you, but they can be felt around the world.

Douglas Santos is a conservation writer who works with NRDC and other organizations to protect our health and environment. He urges everyone to learn more about the dangers that the arctic national wildlife refuge are facing.

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