Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Science Ecosystem

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Science Ecosystem

This ecosystem is covered in vast, flat grasslands and is layered with snow and ice. This area, known as the Tundra, lies directly in the Arctic Circle. It is located along the northeastern coast line of Alaska. Along the southern tip lies the Brooks Mountain Range. Its climate is brutal, where snow, ice and frost shape the land. The growing season is only about 50-60 days due to the cold conditions. The average precipitation in this ecosystem is 6-10 inches including, cold rain, snow and sleet.


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - By Quillen Flanigan

There are many factors that help and hurt this diverse ecosystem. One is the soil, called the permafrost. it is a permanently frozen layer of ice and snow, underneath the active layer of soil. It houses many animals such as the willow ptarmigan and the snowshoe hare. Also, there is the changes in temperature and the amount of daylight. In the summer, the sun almost never dips below the horizon but the temperature only ranges from about 2-12 degrees celsius because the sun's rays are slanted, providing little warmth. During the winter, it snows almost constantly due to the bitter average temperature of -34 degrees celsius. During this brutal season, the sun almost never rises above the horizon, causing even colder conditions. This weather affects many producers who depend on sunlight and water to grow. It affects the alpine azalea, the many species of lichen, cotton grass, and the bunches of arctic willow in the area. Lastly, there is the amounts of water. In the summer, the new found warmth melts all the snow and it sinks into the ground. It goes past the active layer of soil but when it reaches the permafrost, it stops and the land becomes water logged because the melted precipitation can't get past the frozen soil. This water change affects the arctic fox and the hares because it moistens the ice for them to create shelter. Also, the summer is the growing season for many of the plants so it supports the bears, the lemmings and the musk oxen.

Along with all the abiotic factors there are also many biotic factors. There are many producers and consumers that work together for energy. The most common producers include the reindeer lichen, cotton grass, alpine azalea, and the arctic willow. Then there are the first level consumers, which include the brown lemmings, the musk oxen, the snowshoe hares and the willow ptarmigan. Furthermore, the arctic wolves, the least weasels, the wolverines, and the snowy owls lie on the third trophic levels. Also, the brown bear and the lynx are the top level consumers. Lastly there are human impacts in the area. The two tribes, known as the Inupiat Eskimos and a group called the Gwich'in Indians. These groups have to divert the water supply and they hunt the animals to survive. This creates a big impact on the ecosystem.

Human Impact

Biotic Factors


The main human impact in this ecosystem is oil drilling. There is a debate in Congress about whether or not oil drilling processes should be carried out in this area. There is an estimated 11-13 billion barrells of oil under the permafrost in the Refuge. If Congress does choose to start drilling, they will have to start builiding roads, drilling pipelines, refineries and platforms and building shelters for workers. This will cause major devastation to the plants and animals that live in the area. In 1985 a group of petroleum scientists led an exploration to see if the area truly had potential for oil. During this exploration,the scientists killed thousands of plants and animals and left scars in the land that can still be seen today. There are ways to solve this issue. Congress can decide not to dig there because there is plenty of oil elsewhere or they could isolate the area and make sure all the plants and animals can and will migrate somewhere and they're not endangered.

Similar Ecosystems

There are not many similar ecosystems in the US that relate to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge due to its location. However, there are some that have similar geographical features., and biotic factors around the world. These include the Canadian High Arctic, Northern Siberia and the Finishh region known as lapland.


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