The Last Ice Area | WWF
	© WWF / Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Stock

The Last Ice Area

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.
Discover the Last Ice Area:

Where is the Last Ice area?

	© WWF-Canada
See full-size map

This map shows the extent of summer sea ice projected for 2040, as viewed from the north pole. The prediction is for a fringe of ice to remain in Northeast Canada and Northern Greenland when all other large areas of summer ice are gone.


Ice on the move

This video shows how the Arctic's oldest ice is moving and changing over time.
Much of the oldest ice has already disappeared, and that which remains is found along the northern shores of Canada and Greenland - the Last Ice Area.


People and ice

	© Tonje Folkestad
George Attla. Elder, Huslia, Alaska.
© Tonje Folkestad
As the ice disappears, the livelihoods, cultural values and ecosystem services northern peoples rely upon come under threat.
As sea ice declines:
  • Shores along Arctic communities are eroding, threatening entire coastal communities;
  • Ice trails that northern peoples have followed for centuries are no longer as predictable or safe as they have been in the past;
  • Arctic cultures have traditionally relied on the seasonal abundance of animals that live on and around the ice;
  • Weather conditions are more unpredictable.

Working with communities

The Last Ice Area may well require special management measures to maintain its importance to ice-dependent life. We're working with Inuit organizations, communities, and governments in Greenland and Canada to plan for the future of this region.

Sailing to Siku

In Summer 2012, scientists, reporters and WWF experts explored the Last Ice Area. Along the way, we conducted research and spoke with local communities to fill in the knowledge gaps about this remote area.

Wildlife and Ice

	© Eric V. Regehr/USGS
Large male polar bear eight kilometres north of Oliktok, Alaska, US, in the Beaufort Sea.
© Eric V. Regehr/USGS
For some animals, the disappearance of the ice might mean that they change their behaviours, but not all animals will be able to adapt. These animals will need to move, or they’ll disappear.
We must leave enough space around critical habitat areas for the animals that live there to survive the challenge of changing conditions.

Tracking polar bears

We're supporting population surveys and satellite tracking of polar bears in the Last Ice Area and beyond, to support meaningful management measures.

Habitat and ice

Oil spill in North Slope, Alaska. 
	© State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
Local spill responders work to clean up the more than one million litres of crude oil that spilled onto the tundra in the largest recorded oil spill on Alaska'a North Slope. March 2006.
© State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
The loss of sea ice opens up larger parts of the Arctic Ocean to shipping and drilling for oil and gas. These activities are likely to add further stresses to arctic ecosystems already stressed by climate change.
We’re looking for ways to manage shipping and industrial activities in the Arctic. We understand that Northerners want economic development. We want to work with them to ensure development is sustainable.

Addressing climate change

We’re working to persuade people and governments of the urgent need for major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, so that the coming changes will remain manageable.

Understanding ice

We're supporting research into sea ice in the Last Ice Area, to ensure management decisions are based on the best available science.

What WWF is doing

The Arctic is changing. WWF is planning for a future where the Arctic will look quite different, and finding ways to manage those changes for the benefit of both animals and people.

WWF is the only environmental NGO with offices around the Arctic.
The Arctic Programme coordinates WWF's Arctic work.

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