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© WWF / Wim van Passel
Ecoregion assessments
The RACER method has been piloted in the Russian, Norwegian, Greenlandic and Canadian Arctic. The tests have been successful in identifying areas of climate change resilience but also with regard to improving the method, and engaging top level scientists and regional experts in this novel thinking.

On this page we have compiled some data from this work-in-progress, which WWF hopes will inform spatial planning and decision making in ongoing and upcoming national or regional planning and management processes.
Aerial photograph of the impressive polygon tundra in the Lena Delta Nature Reserve, Siberia, Russian Federation

© WWF / Peter Prokosch

Northern Norway/Finnmark and Norwegian Sea (M46, M47)

WWF’s RACER ecoregion map [jpg, 4.62 MB]

The Northern Norway/Finnmark Ecoregion (M46) stretches from the Northern Norwegian coast, and westward into the Atlantic Ocean. Fjords and islands are common along much of the coast, while sand, sediments and gravel dominate the ocean floor. The costal Norwegian current goes northward, while the North Atlantic current brings warm saline water from the Norwegian Sea and into the Barents region, making this area ice free all year around.

The Norwegian Sea Ecoregion (M47) constitutes a narrow and shallow continental shelf dominated by deep sea areas: the Norwegian Sea Basin and the Lofoten Basin. There is great variation in both seasonal and annual climate, due to variations in temperature from the incoming Atlantic water, water input from Arctic waters from the west, and heat loss to the atmosphere. Warm Atlantic water also makes the Norwegian Sea ice-free throughout the year.

Beaufort Sea – continental coast and shelf (M27)

The Beaufort Sea Ecoregion (M27, on WWF’s RACER ecoregion map [jpg, 4.62 MB]) stretching along the northwestern Canadian and northern Alaska coast is biologically rich.

The ecoregion’s few major rivers, including the Mackenzie River in Canada and the Colville River in Alaska, as well as many smaller watercourses deliver vast amounts of ecologically important nutrients, sediments, and freshwater to the shelf.

The Mackenzie River, for example, is responsible for a large estuarine system over the Canadian portions of this shelf and ranks fourth among circum-Arctic marine systems for freshwater input and first for sediment.

The Beaufort Sea ecoregion is featured in the RACER handbook [pdf, 2.65 MB] as an example case study.

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Laptev Sea, Russia (M41)

The Laptev Sea Ecoregion (M41, on WWF’s RACER ecoregion map [jpg, 4.62 MB]) on the central Russian arctic coast is made up to a large degree of the Siberian shelf with an average depth of around 53m.

The coastline is characterised by several estuaries and there are many islands in the Laptev Sea, especially in its western part. The Laptev Sea ecoregion is home to many arctic marine mammals, including the Laptev walrus, a population of walrus proposed but not commonly accepted as a distinctive subspecies (Odobenus rosmarus laptevi) that winters in the area where they can feed in the open water of the Great Siberian Polynya.

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West Greenland (T20) and West Greenland Shelf (M48)

The West Greenland Shelf (M48 on WWF’s RACER ecoregion map [jpg, 4.62 MB])

The shelf encompasses a number of significant fishing banks, as well as some of the world’s most productive glaciers.

The West Greenland Shelf ecoregion is characterized by low biodiversity compared to non-Arctic regions but with often numerous and dense animal populations, from the small in size but ecologically very important copepods to some of the largest creatures on earth, the bowhead whales.

The terrestrial region of Western Greenland (T20 on the map) spans three climatic zones: subarctic, low Arctic, and high Arctic. Climate, soil conditions, day length, light conditions and ecosystems vary widely across the region.

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Central Canada, Canada (T4)

The Central Canada Ecoregion (T4, on WWF’s RACER ecoregion map [jpg, 4.62 MB]) is a tundra ecosystem, characterised by lowland plains covered with glacial moraine, which stretches from the Canadian mainland in the South across the islands of the central and western parts of the high arctic archipelago.

Herbs and lichens dominate the ground cover, but on the mainland tundra shrubs also occur (including dwarf birch, heaths, willows). Largely polar desert conditions are common in the high arctic islands. Short summer period and cool conditions likely reduces predation pressure and insect harassment for concentrations of breeding birds and mammals.

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East Chukotka, Russia (T5)

The Eastern Chukotka Ecoregion (T5, on WWF’s RACER ecoregion map [jpg, 4.62 MB]) is home to a unique combination of vegetation types and plant communities, and its overall geographical features, zoogeography and landscapes bear witness of its history as a land bridge between Eurasia and America.

This history has resulted in a biogeographic exchange between the continents with relic biota (for example cryophilic steppe) still found within the ecoregion.

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All material from case studies on this site is work in progress and should not be considered final. For questions, please contact Martin Sommerkorn: email msommerkorn (at) wwf (dot) no.


All material featured on this website is copyrighted WWF and the involved experts and expert advisers, unless otherwise noted.