|Key to charts
|Land area impacted by infrastructure expansion:
Arctic (% of total land area)
The Arctic holds the largest remaining
undisturbed - but highly sensitive - wilderness in the world.
Source: GLOBIO (see technical
Infrastructure developments, often related to fishing
and tourism in both the Arctic and the Antarctic, and to oil, gas and
other mineral development in the Arctic, expand significantly in a Markets
First world (see chart for the situation in the Arctic). In the Antarctic,
this includes spontaneous private colonization by a limited number of
economically and technology-rich individuals or entities. In the Arctic,
habitats of wide-ranging species, such as the caribou, reindeer, grizzly
bear and musk ox are severely fragmented and encroached upon. All Arctic
wildlife is substantially affected either directly or indirectly from
the disruption of the food chain, from habitat loss and from the insidious
impacts of climate change. Excessive hunting further reduces some of the
populations to biologically unsustainable levels.
In Policy First, these pressures are kept in check, although effects
of decades of warming - on land and sea - are visible over large expanses.
Responsible planning decisions have prevailed and wildlife habitat has
remained relatively intact. In many cases this is due to the improved
effectiveness of habitat management, particularly in protected areas which
are now integrated into circumpolar and north-south networks. The numbers
and size of protected areas have increased significantly, but many sites
still have inadequate regulations on mineral, oil and gas exploration
and extraction and hydropower generation. Hunting is sustainable in most
parts of the Arctic and quotas are based on much improved scientific evidence.
Security First sees permanent residence in Antarctica becoming
possible for personnel employed by industries active in the area and as
a status symbol for the wealthy. Numbers of endemic wildlife in the Arctic
plummet, the food chain is disrupted and genetic diversity is weakened
due to habitat degradation and fragmentation. Opportunistic alien species
able to survive in the warming climate have filled available niches. However,
even they are having a hard time due to contamination by wastes and habitat
In Sustainability First, biodiversity hot spots and habitats are
protected and large areas are set aside as national parks or nature reserves
to help wildlife cope with climate change. Small, regulated subsistence
hunts are still allowed in accordance with agreements negotiated with
indigenous peoples. The public does not tolerate poaching. Residence in
the Antarctic is denied for anything other than specifically agreed purposes,
generally scientific research.
In the Arctic, the condition of the boreal forests differs markedly between
scenarios. Large areas of forest in the region have come under stress
from rapid climate change, leading to long-term shifts in temperature
and precipitation, as well as to increasing incidence of fires. Continued
and increasing levels of logging in Markets First and Security
First further exacerbate these pressures. Most notably, in Security
First muddy plains and clear-cut forested areas have replaced many
of the once vast pristine landscapes.
|Imagine ... a crash in circumpolar Antarctic
Clear signs emerge that circumpolar Antarctic krill (Euphausia
superba) stocks are crashing. The immediate cause is believed
to be commercial over-harvesting, but the picture is complicated
by simultaneous sea-ice changes and rises in ultraviolet radiation
levels, both of which are believed to affect krill population dynamics.
There is evidence of serious adverse impacts on breeding success
of Antarctic birds, seals and cetaceans within a few seasons, leading
to serious concerns over the viability of populations of higher
predators. Indications of severe damage to stocks of other marine
species - initially evident through declining stocks of fin-fish
and squid - raise concern about the stability of the entire Antarctic
marine ecosystem, and knock-on effects on other ecosystems in and
around the subregion. Dramatic falls in catches of krill and commercial
fisheries stocks that prey on krill, result in widespread reduction
in fishing activity and collapse of the fishing industry in some
areas. The treaties, institutions and other international arrangements
set up to conserve and manage the fishery are seen as having failed.
Public concern runs high at the prospect of threats to charismatic
wildlife species such as penguins, seals and whales.
In the case of ...
- Some regulatory steps are taken, but market mechanisms are the
prime response measures used - reducing krill demand by raising
prices, and harvesting by raising costs.
- Harvesting switches to other species, including those that are
not dependent upon krill themselves and may be competitors. Where
these responses fail, the fishing industry abandons the area.
- It is widely presumed that krill stocks will in time recover,
and that the adverse knock-on effects will turn out to be reversible.
- Moratoria on krill harvesting are agreed to allow stock recovery.
- These steps are accompanied by reductions in fisheries activities
across all target species.
- Major research effort is directed to understanding what has
happened and underpinning policy responses.
- The regulatory regime for the marine environment is revised.
- Measures are taken to ban some operators from the region as
a way to curb pressures on krill stocks.
- Market mechanisms are employed when they underpin the interests
of key stakeholders in the region.
- In a bid for short-term 'use-it-or-lose-it' exploitation,
harvesting switches to other species, including those expected
to decline steeply as a result of krill stock collapse.
- Active management of the marine environment begins by seeding
new krill stocks (including genetically modified types), enhancing
nutrient levels and depressing predators or competitors.
- There is an immediate closure of all krill fisheries pending
recovery of stocks.
- Substantial reductions in other fisheries are introduced as
a precautionary measure - although directed harvesting of particular
predator populations is considered in some areas.
- A renewed effort is made to understand the functioning of the
Antarctic marine environment.
- Negotiation begins for a new legal regime to manage the marine
environment and regulate more limited harvesting when stocks have
Existing knowledge of many natural systems is limited, including
the thresholds for resource exploitation, beyond which systems collapse.
Such thresholds may be reached in a comparatively sudden way. It
makes sense, therefore, to continue efforts to improve understanding,
but also to take a precautionary approach where baseline data are
lacking, where uncertainty is high and where irreversible impacts
are possible. This course of action may avoid the need to take more
drastic action in the event of a system crash.