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Exploitation of natural resources

Exploitation of mineral resources is an important driver of change in many areas of the Arctic, including northern Canada, Alaska, Norway and Russia. There has been increasing interest in exploiting hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic, motivated by higher oil prices, and a geopolitical trend towards diversification in sources of oil supply. Development pressure is also increasing, with the building of new roads, oil and gas infrastructure, holiday cabins, and new military training grounds, all contributing to the fragmentation of wilderness areas (Nellemann and Vistnes 2002, Nellemann and others 2002). Environmental impacts can be direct and obvious in the event of oil spills, or indirect, such as pipelines, roads and power transmission lines, which, with spreading human settlements, fragment natural habitats.
In the latest release of the United Nations List of Protected Areas a significant increase in the protected areas of key Arctic biomes was reported (Chape and others 2003). In particular, the proportion of tundra listed as protected has increased from 8.4 per cent in 1997 to 11.8 per cent in 2003. Significant new protected areas were also declared in Svalbard and northern Canada during the year.
However, the protected areas are distributed unevenly across Arctic countries and biogeographic zones, and levels and effectiveness of protection vary. The size of some areas is not enough to sustain biodiversity or the traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples.
In the Antarctic the management regime has evolved quite differently, and implicitly builds on international coordination through the Antarctic Treaty System. The main, and substantial, challenges presented from exploitation of natural resources come from the fishing fleet operating in the Southern Ocean, and the threat to the marine ecosystems from illegal, unregulated and unreported activities.

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