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

The Last Ice Area

One place is expected to retain its summer sea ice when it's mostly melted in the rest of the Arctic: this is the Last Ice Area.
The latest scientific projections agree that summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean will be largely gone within a generation. This will undercut a whole ecosystem dependent on sea ice.

The exception is a region in the high Arctic of Canada and Greenland projected to be the last stronghold of summer sea ice as the Earth continues to warm due to climate change. In the coming years, it will be essential as an enduring home for ice-dependent life.

WHERE IS THE LAST ICE AREA?

© WWF © WWF © WWF © WWF
These maps show the extent of summer sea ice projected for 2040 and beyond, 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.

 

WHAT'S AT STAKE?

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.

WHAT WWF IS DOING

WWF is working to limit climate change, but also planning for a future where the Arctic will look quite different. We are working with Arctic peoples and governments to find ways to limit the negative impacts of change on animals and people.

Working with people and communities

We don't know everything about this remote region, but we know enough to understand that the future of ice dependent life is likely to be found here.

Given the shocking rate of ice retreat, and the comparatively slow rate of conservation and management planning, we are working now with local people and governments to sketch out a viable future for the region.

WWF is...

  • supporting the gathering of knowledge, both traditional and scientific, to help inform strategies for managing the region;
  • mapping the persistence of polynyas (areas of year-round open water, surrounded by sea ice);
  • supporting wildlife studies to establish how animals use the region;
  • convening workshops to help guide the gathering of knowledge, sharing knowledge with communities, and consulting on how the knowledge might best be applied to management;
  • helping to inform the Nunavut Land Use plan, and local and national conservation priorities, like the creation of the Lancaster Sound national Marine Conservation Area and the potential designation of a World Heritage Site;
  • supporting the work of the Pikialasorsuaq Commission, an initiative led by the Inuit Circumpolar Council that is examining the future of a highly productive polynya shared by Canada and Greenland.

 
 
	© Staffan Widstrand/ WWF
Inuit narwhal hunter throwing his harpoon from his kayak, Qaanaaq, Greenland.
© Staffan Widstrand/ WWF
 
	© WWF / Wim van Pessel
Melting sea ice and icebergs in the Arctic
© WWF / Wim van Pessel

Addressing climate change

We’re working to persuade people and governments of the urgent need for major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, so that people and wildlife can better adapt to the coming changes.

 
	© WWF-Canada
Lancaster Sound map
© WWF-Canada

Protecting areas of high conservation value

WWF supports the local proposal for a Lancaster Sound protected area. An interactive map shows the importance of the region. Lancaster Sound is a unique Arctic ecosystem at the southern range of the Last Ice Area, sometimes called “the Serengeti of the Arctic” that possesses rich biodiversity, abundant marine life, and the second largest subpopulation of polar bears.
 
	© WWF
Polar bear tracker
© WWF

Tracking Arctic wildlife movement

We support population surveys and satellite tracking of wildlife in the Last Ice Area and beyond, to support informed management, and to track the relationship of the species to the dwindling sea ice.

 
	© Charlotte M. Moshøj / WWF
Polar bears approach Cape Tobin, near Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland.
© Charlotte M. Moshøj / WWF

Keeping people and polar bears safe

Changes in sea ice habitat mean polar bears are interacting more with people on the land and in the communities, crossing paths with local communities, putting people and bears at risk. 

LAST ICE AREA RESOURCES

WWF has commissioned research and compiled some of the existing research to better explain and understand the significance of the Last Ice Area.

How can I help?

You have the power to help make the Arctic more resilient to change, by making a donation to fund WWF’s conservation work in the Last Ice Area. To fund this work, we need your help.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions
Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions