The Arctic: habitats found nowhere else in the world
The Arctic includes a variety of habitats – mountains, lakes, rivers, estuaries, ice packs, ocean – but each of them is subject to strong winds and extreme cold as well as a very particular pattern of seasons. Throughout the Arctic, life exists and grows thanks to unique ecological and physiological adaptations that are a fascinating subject of study.
Very special forms of life
In the Deep North, there are fewer species than in warmer regions (apart from a few plant groups such as willows, and certain birds and insects), but there are often large numbers of individuals present in each case: huge colonies of seabirds, herds of reindeer and groups of lemmings, etc. The flora and fauna of the Arctic are genetically quite varied, and as such they contribute to the biological diversity of planet Earth.
A fragile milieu
Humans and their various activities – fishing, hunting, mining, oil production and now tourism – have been invading the Arctic in increasing numbers for more than a century now. And our presence has had an impact: stocks of some species of fish are diminishing, heavy vehicles have destroyed soil cover, food chains (polar bears, cetaceans, Man) have been polluted, etc. And of course global warming is endangering polar ecosystems.
Conserving our natural heritage
A number of initiatives – nature reserves, lists of protected species (whales, seabirds, seals, etc.), international conventions and programmes, fishing quotas – are now under way to try to safeguard the Arctic. After all, the Arctic does not just provide humans with resources (food, energy, medicines, etc.), its magnificent landscapes also satisfy deep emotional needs (arts and crafts, native beliefs, etc.).