/ ©: Alexey Ebel / WWF-Canon

The Arctic

Consisting of deep ocean covered by drifting pack ice and surrounded by continents and archipelagos around the Earth's North Pole, the Arctic is the planet's largest and least fragmented inhabited region.
But by the end of this century, the Arctic will be a very different place. Temperatures are warming more than twice as fast as they are for the planet as a whole. Sea ice is melting. Arctic wildlife and people are beginning to live altered lives.

Learn about WWF's work in the Arctic.

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Why the Arctic matters

It is home to several million people

Many Arctic residents are Indigenous peoples, who have adapted to live in one of the harshest environments in the world.

It's a rich habitat for wildlife

The Arctic is home to the polar bear, arctic fox, and walrus as well as many species of seals, whales and birds.

It contains vast resources

The Arctic holds enormous freshwater reserves, and fossil fuels and fisheries abound.

Where is the Arctic?

Several definitions of the Arctic as a region exist and are all used extensively. / ©: Philippe Rekacewicz, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
There are several different definitions of the Arctic region. Click on the map to enlarge.

Why the Arctic is threatened

Climate change is the single greatest threat to the Arctic.
Warming in the Arctic is expected to be two or three times greater than the rest of the world. Even a slight shift in temperature could potentially result in an ice-free Arctic within this century, threatening arctic communities and animals as well as the entire planet. As Arctic sea ice recedes, the region is increasingly open to shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism.

Preparing for change

As the climate warms, Arctic sea ice is disappearing. Almost every summer, the amount of remaining ice gets smaller. That summer ice is vitally important to a whole range of animals from tiny shrimp to vast bowhead whales, and to local people.

One stretch of ice is projected to remain when all other large areas of summer ice are gone.

This is the Last Ice Area.

What WWF is doing

WWF is working with its many partners – governments, business and communities – across the Arctic to combat these threats and preserve the region’s rich biodiversity.

The WWF Global Arctic Programme has coordinated WWF's work in the Arctic since 1992. We work through offices in six Arctic countries, with experts in circumpolar issues like governance, climate change, shipping, oil and gas and polar bears.

Facts & Figures

    • 66° 33’N: The lower limit of the Arctic, strictly defined
    • 30 million km2 of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
    • Polar bears live in the Arctic -- it's their only home. Penguins do not live in the Arctic.
    • 4 million people live within the Arctic Circle.
    • -40°C (-40°F): Average winter temperature in some parts of the Arctic
    • The smallest ocean in the world is the Arctic Ocean
    • 8 countries are recognized as Arctic states

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