2.2 Why is the MIZ important/interesting?
2.2.1 Bio-ecological perspectives
The marginal ice zone is highly enriched by several biological, ecological and economic resources, they are extremely dynamic and influenced by climatic and anthropogenic factors in the recent years. The ecosystem host over 2000 species of algae, tens of thousands of microbes, over 5000 animal species, large population of seabirds and sea mammals including unique and rare species (Michel et al., 2013), in addition to the other extractable natural resources. The marginal ice zone and ice-edge habitats are important for many Arctic, endemic species, and, many of these are red listed nationally and internationally (NPI, 2017). Marginal ice zone has a unique status and value. Some artic marine mammals are sea ice obligates, and feeding depend on sea ice, whereas others use ice but do not depend on (Laidre et al., 2015; Laidre et al., 2008). The marginal ice zone habitats are also important for many migratory species. Disturbances may therefore have consequences for the population levels of many species. There are at least 11 species of Arctic marine mammals, which are particularly vulnerable due to their dependence on sea ice (Kovacs et al., 2011; Laidre et al., 2015; Laidre et al., 2008). A large concentration of many species, often in very limited areas in the marginal ice zone, mean that these species are very vulnerable. For instance, in late summer, 80–90% of the global population of ivory gulls are in the marginal ice zone in the Barents Sea (NPI, 2017).
With the reduction in the sea ice, the mean position of the marginal ice zone is moving steadily further northwards and eastwards. This also affects the ecosystem of the sea ice and marginal ice zone. The vulnerable species and habitats associated with it are shifting in the same direction (NPI, 2017). The ecosystem of the marginal ice zone is highly vulnerable to climate change, which is the largest threat to Arctic species and ecosystems (CAFF, 2013). A reduction in the area of sea ice available will also have an impact on ice-dependent species, and thus on production conditions and biodiversity in areas with a seasonal ice cover (NMCE, 2016). The climate change affects the health of the marine species and their ecosystem (Burek et al., 2008).
Consequently, changes occurring in the MIZ influence inhabiting species and may pose a threat to the local ecosystems, as well as wider Arctic ecosystems. Besides, it brings further consequences for human activities, including tourism (in a form of natural attractions) and fisheries, as related to biological aspects of the MIZ.
6.5 Management and regulation of tourism activities in the MIZ
With the increasing arctic tourism, the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) is looking at measures and guidelines to promote the sustainable marine tourism (NMCE, 2016). PAME working Group has performed assessment of the Arctic shipping related to use and carriage of heavy fuel. PAME has also assessed the need to the designate areas in high seas to reduce the risk posed by the shipping and has identified possible measures to reduce the risk (Det Norske Veritas, 2013).
Tourism poses a risk to the environment (Triggs, 2011). Concerning the negative effect of the tourism, the IAATO developed a code of conduct for to minimize impact (Stewart et al., 2005). Visitors are also cautioned regarding the interference and disturbances to the wildlife and fragile plants in the protected areas (Bauer & Dowling, 2003). Additional IAATO guidelines require that tour operators be familiar with the act and to comply with it, to be aware of protected areas, to enforce the visitor’s code of conduct, to hire a professional team of expedition leaders, to provide a qualified guidance for every 20-25 passengers to monitor small groups by limiting the number to 100 passengers (Bauer & Dowling, 2003).
The growing concerns about the relationship between tourism and the environment have begun to be addressed through the WWF aiming to promote conservation and to maximize benefits of tourism (Humphreys et al., 1998; Mason, 1997; Stewart et al., 2005). A combination of codes of conduct and legislative framework could offer arctic strategy for the tourism sector (Johnston, 1997).
Polar code: The polar code (IMO, 2017) that enters into the force from 1 January 2017 related to the protection of the environment in flowing ways.
(i) It applies to ships operating in arctic waters: additional to existing MARPOL1 requirements
(ii) It provides for safe ship operation and protects the environment by addressing the unique risks present in polar waters that not covered by other instruments
1 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)