The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in north-eastern Alaska was established in 1960 as Arctic National Wildlife Range with an area of approximately 13,900 square miles (36,000 square km) and was expanded and renamed Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1980. The refuge supports the most diverse collection of animal and plant life found in the Arctic Circle.
USA (Alaska): 78,051 km sq
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. It is home to polar, grizzly, and black bears, over 200 species of birds, 8 marine mammal species, hundreds of thousands of caribou, wolves, muskoxen, moose, and more. Many of these species need the specific habitat found in the Arctic Refuge to survive and flourish.
The refuge is also the most important polar bear denning area in the country and a critical calving area for the Porcupine caribou herd, the second largest at around 200,000 animals. A remarkable annual event in the refuge is the migration of one of the Arctic’s major caribou herds, depending on the route taken, the round-trip can be up to 4,800 km long. The climate in the refuge is almost as diverse as the wildlife. Snow usually blankets the ground from September through May. Summers last only from June through August.
In 1968 oil was discovered along the North Slope coast at Prudhoe Bay, about 120 km west of the wildlife refuge with estimates of petroleum deposits there put in the billions-of-barrels range. For 40 years, politicians have been fighting over whether to allow companies to drill for oil and gas in the pristine wilderness. It wasn’t until President Donald Trump’s final days in office that leases were auctioned off, but the Biden administration’s decided last year to put the leases to a review.
Among other threats is climate change and global warming. Most noticeable have been changes in pack ice in the Beaufort Sea, which, over time, has become thinner and has extended over a progressively smaller area each year. There also has been a rise in the temperature of the permafrost on the coastal plain and a significant decrease in the size of glaciers in the mountains. Also sadly the number of polar bears thought to have drowned after having been stranded on ice floes surrounded by expanses of open water.
Source: britannica.com, nationalgeographic.com, safarisafricana.com, alaskaconservation.org
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