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The Arctic

The Arctic encompasses sea and land areas of the North Pole, and the Polar Circle. Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland/Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland are all countries within this Arctic frontier.

North of the mainland lies the Arctic Ocean that is covered with permanent ice. The outer edges are distributed with pack ice and/or drifting ice which varies considerably with the time of year.

The Norwegian region of the Arctic includes the Svalbard archipelago, which consists of several large and smaller islands that when combined total an area of 64,000 km2. The largest of these islands are Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet (North East Land), Barentsøya (Barents Island) and Edgeøya (Edge Island).

Compared with other regions consisting of land and sea, Polar Regions remain relatively unexplored. Even so, recent research indicates that studying these regions is the key to understanding the underlying processes that have and will determine outcomes for the entire earth. This applies particularly to gaining an understanding of the relationship between the Arctic region’s atmosphere and global climate: past; present; and future.

The total area inside boundaries of Arctic Circle is 26 million km2 of which land areas constitute 8 million km2. The Arctic Ocean is encircled by shallow shelf waters. In the Northeast Atlantic these include the Barents Sea off Norway’s northern coast and the Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia. Progressing eastward and northward from there is: the island of Novaya Zemlya (off Russia’s northern coast ― with its Eastern shore on the Kara Sea); the Laptev Sea (off Russia’s central northern coast), the East Siberian Sea (off Russia’s northeast coast), the Chukchi Sea (north of the Bering Straits), Beaufort Sea (north of Alaska and western Canada), and lastly the Lincoln Sea and the Wandel Sea (also known as the McKinley Sea), both of which are north of Greenland.

Barents Sea Facts

Russian name: Barentsevo More
Size: 1.4 million km2 in surface area (approximately four times as large as Norway).
Depth: Average depth = 230 m, Maximum depth = 500 m
Fisheries: Bottom fish such as cod, haddock, Greenland halibut, long rough dab, and redfish. Other commercially important species include: capelin; northern shrimp; minke whales, and harp seals
Special features:

  • Large annual variations in temperature relative to ice coverage
  • A shallow sea which makes up a portion of the continental shelf around the Arctic Ocean
  • Has one of the largest concentrations of sea birds in the world: approximately 20 million individuals distributed across 40 different species
  • Management of living marine resources in the Barents Sea is carried out through collaboration between Norway and Russia.
The Barent Sea Ecosystem

What is an ecosystem?

Ecosystems are often described in terms of energy transfer between levels of the food chain. Behind the energy transfer, however, a life or death struggle between predators and prey is taking place. This struggle, in which every individual tries to make the most of itself by spreading its genes, results in what we call the “interplay of nature”. This interplay is fascinating, both as a field of study and as a management problem.

More about ecosystem