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Is South Greenland's ecosystem at risk from natural or human forces?

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Introduction

Donald Zhang Geography Mr. Zettler 1/24/04 Is South Greenland's ecosystem at risk from natural or human forces? Greenland is located in Northern North America. It is an island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada. Its approximate total size is 2,166,086 sq km, comprised of 410,449 sq km of ice-free land, and 1,755,637 sq km of ice-covered land (2000 est.). Comparatively, it is slightly more than three times the size of Texas (CIA). The major ecosystem of Greenland is the tundra. Thus, the typical climatic characteristic of Greenland is dry and cold. Summer temperatures are always in the arctic regions are below 5 degrees Celsius, and about 5-10 degrees in the low arctic. In the stunted forest ecosystem, summer temperatures can rise to over 10 degrees. South Greenland is the warmest part of Greenland, but it is still too cold for all but a few trees to grow. Most of the southern half of coastal Greenland is a damp coastal zone. This region can be very sensitive to changes. As humans have adapted and colonized the area through the commercialization of fishing, hunting, and livestock, there have been significant changes to the ecosystem, affecting, vegetation, animals, and the land in general. In southern Greenland, there is not a wide variegation of vegetation. ...read more.

Middle

These people attempted to farm and establish a settlement in the area. These attempts failed, possibly because a drop in global temperatures, which led to more icebergs, proving to a hindrance in transporting supplies. Nevertheless, the Norse settlements disappeared in the mid-1400s. Eventually, the Danish government claimed Greenland as Danish territory, and currently, around 56,385 people live in Greenland. All people in Greenland depend on local hunting, and trapping, mainly of seal meat. Thus, settlements with small populations are scattered along the coast to keep stocks of seals from depleting. The economy of Greenland has changed recently from seal hunting to fishing and sheep farming. Seal hunting has become more commercialized, and now people have begun to settle in areas with the best chances of catching seals. Currently, there are 63 sheep farms in South Greenland, with 21,000 ewes. The sheep in South Greenland are raised for meat rather than wool. During the summer months, the sheep roam free through the hills where the grass is growing. At the same time, sheep farmers grow grass that can be cut to make silage for use as feed during the winter. Another industry that is important is the fishing industry. Because fishing is dependent on the natural environment, fish and shellfish populations are extremely sensitive to even minute changes in the natural conditions of the sea. ...read more.

Conclusion

If these melt, then there may be possible flash floods, which may damage people's homes. There is continuous permafrost over the northern two-thirds of the island, but as the temperatures rise, there may be reduced continued permafrost. It is important to protect the arctic environment, to preservation of the Inuit traditional way of life, and to sensibly restrict whaling and seal hunting. But the major changes to the ecosystem may come from other places thousands of miles away in the world. Southern Greenland's ecosystem is at risk from human forces, mainly because Greenland's ecosystem is so important as it is near the polar ice caps. A few years ago, scientists found a gaping hole in the ozone layer at the poles. Because of global warming and pollution, this hole has widened considerably. This creates adverse effects on the vegetation as well as wildlife. Around the 1200s, world temperatures dropped, and there was a mini-ice age throughout the world. These changes were particularly harmful, and some scientists surmise that the reason that the Norse settlements disappeared were that they could not adapt to these new conditions. Thus, it has been shown that southern Greenland's ecosystem may be sensitive to natural and human forces, which leaves it at risk. In the future, it may be possible that if the opposite of a mini-ice age occurred, the ecosystem of southern Greenland would change drastically as well. ...read more.

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