Glacial Systems & Landscapes: Human impacts on Cold environments

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  • Glacial systems & landscapes: Human impacts on cold environments
    • Cold environments are fragile
      • Decay = slow = pollutants broken down slowly = remain for long time
      • Fragility = easy to damage, long time to recover
      • Plants & animals adapted = hard to survive to environmental change
      • Harsh climate = short growing season, don't have much recover time
        • Plants grow slowly = repairing = long time
    • Human activities have changed over time
      • Centuries indigenous people (Inuit) adapted landscape& climate & pop = small
      • Recent = environment exploited larger scale
        • Activities = local area = immediate & long term effects = more damaging
      • Oil extraction
        • Oil spills during transport
          • 1989, oil spill, Alaska, Exxon Valdez oil tanker, 40 million litres, 250,000 birds, fish killed
        • Oil spills  pipelines leak, 1977-1994 30-40 spills/year from Trans-Alaskan pipeline
          • Some caused by intentional attacks & forest fires
      • Fishing
        • Disrupt food chains
          • E.g. Krill, Southern Ocean = depleting whale & penguin food supplies
        • Overfishing = deplete pop.
          • E.g. Patagonian Toothfish
        • Bottom trawling = disrupts ecosystem = catches other species
          • Carried out in Gulf of Alaska, Greenland Sea & Barents Sea
      • Tourism
        • Cruise ships = pollution
        • Tourists disrupt wildlife, damage habitats = reduced biodiversity
      • Mining
        • Chemicals during mining = ground & surface water contamination
          • Lead-Zinc mine , Maarmorilik, closed 1990, lead-zinc pollution still high
        • Produces solid waste & wastewater = rebased to environment = pollutes
      • Hydroelectric power production
        • Block migratory path to spawning grounds = pop. decrease
        • Heats water = endangers fish adapted to cold
    • Climate change is causing warming
      • Current impacts
        • Melting glaciers = sea levels rise
        • Globally glaciers retreating
        • Permafrost = melting = buildings collapse & ice roads usable for less time before they thaw
        • Migration patterns changing e.g. caribou
      • Predicted impacts
        • Sea level rise = flood low level land
        • Melting permafrost = positive feedback
          • Methane released = temps rise = more released = further melting
        • Plants & animals adapted = harder to survive in warm
        • Other flora & fauna that prefer warm = extend into cold environments
    • Cold environments are managed but under pressure
      • Strategies
        • Protected areas = protected by laws prevent activities e.g. designated wilderness areas development forbidden, access limited
        • International treaties = antarctic treaty, 12 countries, 1959, now has 53 signatories, states Antarctica used for peaceful purposes & science
        • Monitoring & regulation = exploitation monitored, activities managed e.g. visitors to Antarctica disinfect footwear
        • Fishing quotas = number of fish can be caught = limited
      • Pressure on natural resources as tourist demand increasing
        • Increased protection = 2015, USA, extending wilderness area of Alaska prevents oil exploration
        • Decrease protection = pop increases & oil & minerals depleted, currently protected may be opened up

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