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Arctic Ocean - Beaufort Sea


The frigid, icy waters of the Arctic Ocean are among the least explored in the world. The entire surface of Beaufort Sea is completely frozen during much of the year, and permanent ice-pack covers the northern edge of the Beaufort Sea year-round. Harsh, unforgiving conditions have led species to adapt to the seasonal ice coverage in this region. For example, some unique crustacean species or amphipods live permanently on the underside of ice floes, using large ice channels and crevasses as protection from predators. Ringed seals depend on sea ice as a place to breed and raise young, and polar bears prey on the seals. Sea ice also protects Arctic communities and shorelines from erosion due to wind, waves, and current. Beaufort Sea is an important habitat for whales and sea birds and is still relatively untouched by commercial traffic. However, with new advances in oil drilling technology it is only a matter of time before we start to have a much larger impact on the region. Beneath the seabed of Beaufort Sea is what is believed to be substantial petroleum reserves, a continuation of proven reserves in the nearby Mackenzie River and North Slope. Beaufort Sea was first explored for oil in the 1960’s and the first oil platform began pumping oil in the late 1980’s.

Another threat to the relatively pristne enviornment of Beaufort Sea comes from global warming. Climate change and the resulting global warming can cause a drastic reduction in the level of sea ice. Even a moderate rise in temperature will result in the loss of this crucial wildlife habitat, threatening the seal and polar bear populations, among other species. The encroaching water level also forces native Alaskans to relocate their villages to areas safe from coastal erosion. Scientists fear that these accelerating changes will begin to occur faster than people and animals can adapt. In some places, the shoreline has retreated by 30 feet per year. Increased climate change in the Beaufort Sea region risks upsetting its delicate balance.



Climate Change
Ecological Uniqueness
Endangered Species
Exploration and Research



Arctic Ocean - Wikipedia
Beaufort Sea - Wikipedia
Arctic Ocean Marine Life
Large Marine Ecosystems – Beaufort Sea
Arctic Sea Ice Melt Accelerating



Ice, Ocean and Eddies: An Arctic Perspective on Climate Change




Polar Bears. Photo: FWS

Ice in Beaufort Sea. Photo: NOAA, Kathy Crane

Ringed seal pup. Photo: NOAA, Lew Consiglieri.