Nature and natural resources - Polar Oceans -Indigenous people - Adaptation and Changing Arctic -Wilderness areas - Human impact - Environmental impact assessment - International cooperation and politics - Articles about the Arctic region - What does the Arctic Centre study? - Essential links - Databases and portals
What is the Arctic region?
The Arctic region surrounding the North Pole, to which Finland belongs, is by its nature a unique area. The cultures in the region and the Arctic indigenous peoples have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions. From the perspective of the physical, chemical and biological balance in the world, the Arctic region is in a key position. It reacts sensitively particularly to changes in the climate, which reflect extensively back on the global state of the environment. From the perspective of research into climatic change, the Arctic region is considered a so-called-early warning system.
There are many definitions for the Arctic region. The boundary is generally considered to be north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N), which is the limit of the midnight sun and the winter twilight. In international cooperation, the Finnish Arctic region is the northern part of the Province of Lapland above the Arctic Circle. In the natural sciences, this area is a so-called subarctic region. See the definitions on the map and a map of population distribution in the circumpolar North.
Nature and natural resources
Nature in the Arctic is comparatively clean although there are certain ecologically difficult localized pollution problems that present a serious threat to people’s health living around these pollution sources. Due to the prevailing worldwide sea and air currents, the Arctic area is the fall out region for long-range transport pollutants and in some places the concentrations exceed the levels of densely populated urban areas.
The Arctic region includes sizeable potential natural resources (oil, gas, minerals, forest and fish) to which modem technology and the opening up of Russia have given significant new opportunities. The interest of the tourist industry in the cold and exotic Arctic is also on the increase. This is for example, seen in the rise in international tourism in Lapland as a significant opportunity but also as a threat.
The Arctic region is one of the last and most extensive continuous wilderness areas in the world and its significance in preserving biodiversity and genotypes is considerable. The increasing presence of people fragments vital habitats. The Arctic is particularly susceptible to the abrasion of groundcover and to the disturbance of the rare reproduction places of the animals that are characteristic to the region.
See the map of the major wilderness areas in the Arctic .
Along with increasing utilization, it is likely that in the coming decades, new investments, industry and building an infrastructure as well as the increasing mobility of goods, services, people and capital are to be expected. These will all have an effect on the environment of the region and on the local conditions of the population and indigenous peoples.
The above-described global change is expected to have the overwhelmingly large impact in the near future on the diversity of nature and cultures in the arctic and northern regions and on the recreational value of the Arctic and its natural resources. The impacts from the changes will reflect in many ways on the ecosystems of the region, its biodiversity, livelihoods, social and legal structures and indirectly on almost all life in the region.
Environmental impact assessment
From the perspective of positive development in the Arctic region, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is in a key position. In the Arctic region, it is important that in a process, special attention is given to assessing social impacts. It is generally known that scientific information focused on the Arctic region is insufficient, so the actors conducting an EIA do not get sufficient material in order to compile a precise assessment.
Developing a dialogue between new actors in the region, business life and the local population is important so that mutual understanding and often conflicting needs for development can be improved. Improving access to information by local inhabitants, well functioning participatory planning and ensuring the optimum use of its results are part of this activity. The horizontal processing of administration by different sectors in society that is required for an EIA necessitates for its support the production of strong multidisciplinary information. Managing and analyzing the above-mentioned multidimensional and demanding process requires combining many scientific fields and methods and further scientific analysis and development of functional models. This the Arctic Centre aims to realize.
International cooperation and politics
The Arctic region is one of the important focuses of international political interest. Finland is a member of the Arctic Council. The European Union’s Northern Dimension, which emphasizes the North and creating positive interdependence, aims especially at bringing the relationship between the EU and Russia closer. Finland has a general policy to promote technological and scientific cooperation relating to global change, which provides a preparedness to control environmental and social change. Due to its geographical position in the North and Arctic region, it is important that Finland is clear on its own development scenarios and those in neighbouring areas; these must be are based on firm scientific research. Finland also has an international obligation to conduct multidisciplinary research into its own climatic zone.
International Arctic cooperation got underway on a broad scale well over ten years ago. The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), hundreds of scientists and specialists of the Arctic Council, the Barents Council and its regional cooperation have compiled high quality information concerning the environment and the living conditions of the inhabitants in the Arctic. However, this information is still not widely known outside of these specialists and it is relatively hard to come by. At the same time, increasing multilateral interest focused on the Arctic region is being shown by, for instance, the European energy industry and tourism. Furthermore, the recently published alarming results from research on climate change have increased the interests towards Arctic by wide public and decision makers all around the world.
The European Union and the Arctic Region
The European Commission adopted a Communication on "The European Union and the Arctic Region" which highlights the effects of climate change and human activities in the Arctic. The communication sets out EU interests and policy objectives, and also proposes a systematic and coordinated response to rapidly emerging challenges. The Communication is the first step towards an EU Arctic Policy.
What does the Arctic Centre study?
The researchers at the Arctic Centre study the interaction between people and nature in the northern regions of the globe by combining the perspectives of different disciplines into a multidisciplinary approach.