© Josh Ostroff arctic

Arctic

In the face of a changing climate, WWF-Canada is working to help Arctic ecosystems stay in balance.

The Changing Arctic

The Arctic makes up almost 55 per cent of Canada’s landmass and two-thirds of our coastline. To many Canadians, it’s an important part of our identity. Inuit have called the Arctic home for thousands of years, and continue to depend on the Arctic ecosystem and its remarkable species such as polar bear, walrus and narwhal.

Today, the Arctic is changing at a record pace. It is warming at three times the average global rate, causing sea ice – the foundation of Arctic life – to melt, changing the face and reality of the region.

Meet Our Experts

    Photo-of-Jessica-Park-WWF

    Jessica Park

    Vice President, Conservation Management and Integration

    Jessica Park

    Vice President, Conservation Management and Integration

    As VP of Conservation Management & Integration, Jessica oversees conservation activities that go beyond the scope of a single conservation program and ensures that conservation projects align with WWF’s 10 year strategic plan to address the global biodiversity and climate crisis. She coordinates multiple projects in WWF-Canada’s focus regions, provides oversight of government relations, advocacy campaigns and WWF-Canada’s collaboration with the larger WWF international network.

    Paul Okalik

    Paul Okalik

    Lead specialist, Arctic

    Paul Okalik

    Lead specialist, Arctic

    Paul’s focus is on helping to expand WWF-Canada’s work on Barren-ground caribou and marine conservation in the Arctic. He brings to WWF experience as an Inuk lawyer and as premier, with experience balancing the interests of the federal government and the central Inuit concern for the health of wildlife. Paul is a survivor of both federal day and residential schools with a BA and LLB.

    Photo-of-Brandon-Laforest-WWF

    Brandon Laforest

    Senior Specialist, Arctic Species and Ecosystems

    Brandon Laforest

    Senior Specialist, Arctic Species and Ecosystems

    Brandon is part of WWF-Canada’s Arctic Program team and the lead for the Arctic Species Conservation Fund. In his role, Brandon is helping expand WWF’s work on species conservation in the Arctic, ensuring that what we do is scientifically sound, incorporates Indigenous knowledge and is in line with the priorities of affected communities. Brandon holds a BSc in Wildlife Biology and an MSc in Animal Nutrition and Metabolism both from the University of Guelph.

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© Shutterstock Arctic ice flows

Threats

Arctic life depends on the annual cycle of sea-ice formation, but climate change is making these cycles less predictable. Ice-dependent species such as polar bears, walrus, narwhals, belugas and bowhead whales are watching their habitats shrink, move and change.

As the ice-free season in the Canadian Arctic gets longer, there are new opportunities for development, economic growth and jobs, particularly in mining and oil and gas. Industrial development introduces changes to Arctic landscapes and the people who depend on them. But economic development in the region is not without risks, including the risk of oil spills, increased underwater noise, disruption from ship traffic, and the introduction of invasive species. These changes can also put the well-being of local communities at risk.

While the impacts of climate change are already being felt by communities, a warming Arctic has ramifications for the whole planet. As the Arctic warms, it has less ability to help cool the planet.

What WWF-Canada is Doing

WWF’s goal for the Arctic is clear: to ensure that this region is able to adapt to a changing climate. It is vitally important that we understand this place and the species that inhabit it, in order to be able to properly plan for its future. We work directly with Inuit communities to ensure our conservation priorities are in line with community interests. We participate in projects that cover a wide range of topics, from funding groundbreaking wildlife research and advocating for habitat protection for Arctic species, to mitigating the impacts of Arctic shipping and supporting community renewable-energy initiatives.

To help Arctic ecosystems stay in balance, WWF-Canada is planning for an Arctic future that conserves wildlife while establishing direct partnerships with local communities and promoting the responsible development of resources. We do this through scientific research, by working with communities, industry, Indigenous groups and governments, and by furthering national and international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow rapid climate change.

Some of the projects WWF-Canada is involved with include:

© Lee NARRAWAY / WWF-Canada Sea ice on the coast of northeast Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada.

Protecting the Last Ice Area

Climate change is reducing the size and extent of multi-year sea ice. In the coming years, the Last Ice Area will be essential as an enduring home for ice-dependent species and the people who rely on them.

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© Henry Harrison / WWF Large pieces of broken sea ice shape a sea water stream. Sea ice floe edge, Pond Inlet, Nunavut, Canada (part of the Last Ice Area).

Oil and Gas Development

The Arctic holds the world’s largest remaining untapped gas reserves and some of its largest undeveloped oil reserves. Oil spills pose a tremendous risk to Arctic marine ecosystems.

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© Blaine Chislett Rankin Inlet solar panels

Building Renewable Energy Capacity

Diesel fuel is the primary energy source for Arctic communities. WWF-Canada is working to build capacity for habitat-friendly renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

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© Erin Keenan Arctic Shipping

Promoting Better Shipping Practices

In the coming decades ship traffic is expected to intensify in the Arctic. More ship traffic brings more potentially harmful underwater noise and pollution.

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© Doug Chiasson Arctic fishing boat

Sustainable Arctic Fisheries

WWF-Canada is working with communities to build sustainable inshore Arctic fisheries, bringing stable, sustainable employment to Nunavut.

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What You Can Do

Polar bear with cubs in the Wapusk National Park, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Adopt a Polar Bear

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Two narwhal surfacing to breathe in Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, Canada

Fundraise for Wildlife

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Shoreline Cleanup Participants

Volunteer

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