Marginal but do not depend on (Laidre et al.,

Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ)

 

Bio-ecological perspectives

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The
marginal ice zone is highly enriched by several biological, ecological and
economic resources, they are extremely dynamic and influenced by climatic and
anthropogenic factors in the recent years. The ecosystem host over 2000 species
of algae, tens of thousands of microbes, over 5000 animal species, large
population of seabirds and sea mammals including unique and rare species  (Michel
et al., 2013), in addition to
the other extractable natural resources. The marginal ice zone and ice-edge
habitats are important for many Arctic, endemic species, and, many of these are
red listed nationally and internationally (NPI, 2017). Marginal ice zone has a unique status and value. Some artic marine
mammals are sea ice obligates, and feeding depend on sea ice, whereas others
use ice but do not depend on (Laidre
et al., 2015; Laidre et al.,
2008). The marginal ice
zone habitats are also important for many migratory species. Disturbances may
therefore have consequences for the population levels of many species. There
are at least 11 species of Arctic marine mammals, which are particularly
vulnerable due to their dependence on sea ice (Kovacs
et al., 2011; Laidre et al.,
2015; Laidre et al., 2008). A large concentration of many species, often in
very limited areas in the marginal ice zone, mean that these species are very
vulnerable. For instance, in late summer, 80–90% of the global population of
ivory gulls are in the marginal ice zone in the Barents Sea (NPI, 2017).

 

With the reduction in the
sea ice, the mean position of the marginal ice zone is moving steadily further
northwards and eastwards. This also affects the ecosystem of the sea ice and
marginal ice zone. The vulnerable species and habitats associated with it are
shifting in the same direction (NPI, 2017).   The ecosystem of the marginal ice zone is
highly vulnerable to climate change, which is the largest threat to Arctic
species and ecosystems (CAFF,
2013). A reduction in the area of sea ice
available will also have an impact on ice-dependent species, and thus on
production conditions and biodiversity in areas with a seasonal ice cover (NMCE,
2016). The climate change affects the
health of the  marine species and their
ecosystem (Burek et
al., 2008).

Consequently, changes occurring in
the MIZ influence inhabiting species and may pose a threat to the local
ecosystems, as well as wider Arctic ecosystems. Besides, it brings further
consequences for human activities, including tourism (in a form of natural
attractions) and fisheries, as related to biological aspects of the MIZ.

 

 

Management and regulation

With the increasing
arctic tourism, the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) is
looking at measures and guidelines to promote the sustainable marine tourism (NMCE,
2016). PAME working Group has performed assessment
of the Arctic shipping related to use and carriage of heavy fuel. PAME has also
assessed the need to the designate areas in high seas to reduce the risk posed
by the shipping  and has identified
possible measures to reduce the risk (Det Norske Veritas, 2013).

Tourism poses a risk to
the environment (Triggs,
2011). Concerning the negative effect of
the tourism, the IAATO developed a code of conduct for to minimize impact (Stewart
et al., 2005). Visitors are
also cautioned regarding the interference and disturbances to the wildlife and fragile
plants in the protected areas (Bauer
& Dowling, 2003). Additional IAATO
guidelines require that tour operators be familiar with the act and to comply
with it, to be aware of protected areas, to enforce the visitor’s code of
conduct, to hire a professional team of expedition leaders, to provide a
qualified guidance for every 20-25 passengers to monitor small groups by limiting
the number to 100 passengers (Bauer
& Dowling, 2003).  

The growing concerns
about the relationship between tourism and the environment have begun to be
addressed through the WWF aiming to promote conservation and to maximize
benefits of tourism (Humphreys
et al., 1998; Mason, 1997;
Stewart et al., 2005). A combination of codes of conduct
and legislative framework  could offer
arctic strategy for the tourism sector (Johnston,
1997).

Polar code : The
polar code that enters into the force from 1 January 2017 related to the
protection of the environment in flowing ways.

(i)             
It applies to ships operating in arctic waters:
additional to existing  MARPOL1 requirements

(ii)           
It provides for safe ship operation and
protects the environment by addressing the unique risks present in polar waters
that not covered by other instruments

1 International
Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)