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CASE STUDY GLACIATION
Tundra (a biome where the subsoil is permanently frozen): Old Crow Flats
Old crow flats lie in Canada, short distance from the Alaskan border. It is an area of low relief 300m
above sea level. This case study looks into how people have developed a traditional way of life and
learnt to survive in a fragile environment, despite the harsh physical conditions.
During the last ice age the old crow flats were not glaciated. It was part of the area that was never
covered by an ice sheet, instead Old Crow Flats were covered by an enormous lake caused by
impended drainage. In the summer vegetation could grow but the remains could not decay because
there was no oxygen to allow decomposition.
The lakes are in polygonal shapes because of the result of freezing and thawing of the surface layers
in a process similar to the formation of stone polygons.
The Vuntut Gwitchin
The temperature, low precipitation, delicately balanced soil structures, isolation and long hours of
winter darkness all mean that this is a very fragile environment. Survival here is difficult for wildlife
and humans. One community that can survive here is the Vuntut Gwitchin (people of the lakes). They
lived a nomadic life (moving because of food and seasons), hunting, trapping and collecting fruit and
berries. They are now settled but still follow many aspects of their traditional culture.
The porcupine caribou herd
This is named because the animals cross the Porcupine River during their spring and autumn
migrations. The Vuntut Gwitchin rely on this herd for meat and clothing and still hunt them but now
they use rifles rather than spears and arrows. The size of the caribou herd has fallen even though the
Vuntut Gwitchin only kill 4% of the adults in the herd at any one time and birth rates of calves were
more than enough to compensate for this.
Other aspects of Old Crow is there is seasonal work in hunting and fishing which provide income.
There has been government sponsored development in the area which brings jobs to people and
money into the community is a gravel quarry that started in 2003. This provides some opportunity for
The threat to the caribou from oil exploration
In January 2008 a proposal was presented to the United States Congress to open the lands of the
Arctic Refuge for petrol exploration and development, many groups were in favour of this
development. They include:
The oil industry
Many of the people of Alaska who receive money from the Alaska Permanent Fund (a
savings account for state revenues from taxation of the oil industry)
Those who argue that the USA's national security depends on producing its own oil as far as
possible, to avoid relying on imports from other countries
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Groups against the development:
Native Alaskans and first nation Canadians who rely on the caribou herds for their way of life
and much of their food and income
Small, yet growing, Yukon and Alaska tourist industries
Wildlife and wilderness conservationists in Alaska, Canada and mainland USA and the rest of
Apart from the obvious arguments about conservation, these opponents to development say that:
There is only a 50/50 chance of discovering oil in the reserve
Even oil industry suggests that there would only…read more