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To what extent are cold environments fragile environments and how far does this affect their development?

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To what extent are cold environments fragile environments and how far does this affect their development? Cold environments such as Western Antarctica (including peninsula) and Arctic tundra are extremely fragile, mainly due to the low temperatures severely limiting vegetation growth and thus any development will destroy the natural environment. Although this fragility of the environment has not deterred development despite the difficulty and cost of developing cold environments, this is due to human's inability to look to the long-term effects of their actions. Arctic tundra is described as a fragile environment as plant growth of mosses and lichens is restrict to only 2mm per year due to low temperatures only allowing growth to occur in the 3 summer months where temperatures reach 10 degrees centigrade. If growth of predominantly mosses and lichens is so limited then anything that touches the vegetation may undo thousands of years of growth, this should in theory deter development as it destroys the natural landscape and habitats for animals. The fragility of Alaskan tundra has not stopped development at all, the extraction of oil has occurred since 1974. The extraction of oil from the North Slope oilfield is extremely dangerous and not sustainable for the Alaskan environment. The "Exxon Valdez" sunk spilling tones of raw oil into the Gulf of Alaska, this destroyed animals and vegetation that has not recovered since due to the fragility of the environment. ...read more.


The region of Antarctica has potential to be extremely fragile, the prospect of global warming shows just how fragile this area is and any human development that intervenes in its natural processes could cause immeasurable harm. Fragility of Antarctica has affected development immensely; in this case the Antarctic Treaty and the Environmental Protocol protect the region, which restricts development. The Environment Protocol is the most significant- banning any mineral exploration, which shows that the fragility and the uncertainty of the future of Antarctica have slowed development significantly. Coal has been found in commercially viable amounts and there is likely to be oil and other valuable minerals under the ice sheet and thus it is my opinion that Antarctica's fragility and the long-term effects of development have been realized by the Western world and have outweighed the economic benefits. The impact of development on Antarctica is extreme as it is such a pristine and untouched environment; any slight disturbance ruins this natural environment. Humans always have waste and if development is allowed to accelerate thus bringing more visitors waste will increase. The effect of leaving waste can be seen on Deception Island, where British and Chilean researchers left the island like a rubbish dump, the intensity of the cold also makes waste very difficult to breakdown. The other impact of this waste is that it can be washed into the Southern Ocean having adverse effects on whales, seals and fish. ...read more.


The fragility of these areas is low, the warm summer climate allows a longer growing season and plants can easily regenerate. Despite this area not being fragile the impact of tourism is felt- litter, increased erosion. The more serious effects of tourism on Verbier and the surrounding area is the removal of trees in order to create ski runs. This destroys natural habitats for fauna and can cause avalanching. Avalanching is example of this region being fragile but it is a small risk and thus development continues. In comparison to Arctic tundra and Antarctica the Alpine region is not fragile. In conclusion I feel cold environments are completely fragile mainly due to the fact the climate restricts regeneration and the slightest disruption can have knock on effects to the whole environment. At this moment development is taking place in fragile cold environments due to the short-termism that plagues the capitalist world. The rich always seem to find the economic benefits to outweigh the environmental cost but if they looked to the long-term it is not sustainable. The fragility of Antarctica and Canadian tundra is immense and this does not affect development in most cases. Although Antarctica is protected, in the future the greed of the Western world will exploit this area to the maximum for raw materials and there will be no pristine world left. Development is only possible at the expense of the environment. ...read more.

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