ANWR

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  • The Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
    • Vast, unspoilt and pristine place. Called 'America's Serengeti' as it's the most biologically diverse Artic region in the world.
    • Tundra ecosystem
      • ANWR lies in the Artic tundra and has a polar climate
      • Climate
        • Winters are long, dark and cold. Darkness can last for months.
        • Summers are short. The angle of the sun is so low that temperatures rarely reach 6OC (min. temp. needed for continuous plant growth).
        • precipitation is low ('cold desert')
      • Vegetation
        • Plants in the Artic tundra have adapted to the extreme cold and lack of moisture.
          • Low-lying to avoid the strong winds.
          • Most have small leaves to limit transpiration and short roots to avoid permafrost..
          • Short life-cycle (from germination to producing seeds), which is adapted to the short available growing season.
      • Soils
        • Develop on permafrost (permanently frozen subsurface which is impermeable).
        • Soils are frozen in winter and thaw slightly in summer.
        • Waterlogged due to the low temp. and low evapo. rates.
          • Shallow, infertile, acidic, peaty.
    • The ANWR is in Northern Alaska. Runs from mountains of the Brooks Range north to the Artic Ocean.
      • 1.5 m acres of Coastal Plain isn't protected.
        • Could be opened up for oil exploration and drilling, like Prudhoe Bay in 60's and 70's.
          • Scientists consider coast Plain to be the 'biological heartland' of ANWR. 200 species of wildlife are found there:
            • Caribou travel in herds of 120 000+.
            • E.g. Bowhead Wales depend on the rich coastal waters off the ANWR's coast.
            • 135+ species of birds gather on the Coastal Plain in brief summer.
    • Wilderness vs development
      • The coastal plain is the last 5% of Alaska's vast North Slope in which oil exploration and development haven't been allowed.
        • Fragile and vulnerable ecosystem.
          • If disturbed by human activity, it could take many years to become re-established.
      • Oil
        • Prudhoe Bay is on the northern coast of Alaska, near ANWR.
          • Production began in 1977.
            • Peaked at 19 m acres a day in 1988, but has declined since.
              • All of the oil  will be extracted by 2015, so a new source is needed.
        • USA imports a m barrels a day from Iraq and rest elsewhere.
          • Less reliant on imports and increase self-sufficiency.
    • ANWR is 19m acres (nearly as big as Scotland) and Coastal Plain is 1.5 m acres- a lot of oil is believed to be there.
    • Players?
      • Politiicians
        • Republicans-  support development of Coastal Plain for oil. G.W. Bush (family funded by oil) couldn't get enough votes in Congress to allow its development.
        • Democrats-  'left' of Republicans. Oppose Coastal Plain development.
      • Artic Power- NPO with 10 000+ member (miners, fishermen, service industries)..
        • 1992 to expedite congressionall  and presidential approval of oil exploration + production in Coastal Plain of ANWR.
      • Alaskan residents- 75% support development but also believe healthy enviro. and modern oil develop. are compatible.
      • Inupiat- oil industry around Prudhoe Bay has brought benefits.
        • 'Development can exist  alongside our natural resources + way of life'.
      • Gwich'in- 'Sacred Place Where Life Begins'.
        • Drilling for oil violate their human rights, because of impacts on culture+ way of life.
      • Enviro. groups-  i.e. Center for Biological Diversity has 40 000+ members.
        • Protect bio. across Artic + marine waters.
    • For/against
      • 8% of total ANWR is being considered.
        • 250 000 +735 000 jobs would be created.
          • 9-16bn barrels  under Coastal Plain. 16bn =30 yrs' worth USA's imports from ME.
            • 2007, USA imported 60% oil at enormous expense.
              • Oil/gas develop. successfully co-existed in Alaska's Artic.
                • Centrall Artic Caribou herd grew from 3000 to 32000 since 1970's.
                  • Advances in tech. reduced 'footprint'-  if Prudhoe Bay oilfield built today, footprint 64% smaller.
                  • Not Serengeti. CP is frozen, barren land for 9 months. Temp. go  low as  -40oC.
      • Porcupine River Caribou displaced to areas of more predators+mosquitoes.
        • Female PB may abandon dens to industrial activity.
          • Snow geese disrupted by aircraft 4 miles away.
      • Bay- 60+ waste sites leak pesticides, diesel, acids
        • Exxon Valdez supertanker 1989 spilled 11m gallons oil in sea off S Al.  killing e.g. grey whale
          • Can take 50-60yrs for A veg. to recover oil contamination.

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