The Arctic | WWF

The Arctic

  • Size

    40 million km2 of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

  • Population

    4 million people live within the Arctic Circle.

  • Temperature

    -40°C (-40°F) is the average winter temperature in some parts of the Arctic

  • Geography

    8 countries are recognized as Arctic states

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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.

Where is the Arctic?

Several definitions of the Arctic as a region exist and are all used extensively. rel=
© Philippe Rekacewicz, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
Strictly speaking, the Arctic is north of 66° 33’N: the Arctic Circle. But the Arctic can also be defined by average July temperature, or by communities of plants.

Why the Arctic matters

Home to millions

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

Rich wildlife habitat

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

Vast natural resources

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

Threats to the Arctic

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 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.

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