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Canada Scientists urge permanent protection of Last Ice Area in Canada's High Arctic

17:55  28 november  2020
17:55  28 november  2020 Source:   msn.com

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On Thin Ice : Expedition to a Crumbling Ice Shelf. Scientists blog from Antarctica and provide a A vast area of the Arctic Ocean remains ice free as November begins, far later in the season than is Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis (ASINA) is produced by the National Snow and Ice Data Center

The last fully intact ice shelf in Canada has collapsed into the Arctic Ocean. It took just a couple of days for the shelf to lose nearly half of its area , scientists said Friday The Milne Ice Shelf was considered less vulnerable to break-ups due to protection from the Milne Fiord, but scientists say it' s

Derek Mueller, a senior researcher at Carleton University, cut his scientific teeth studying mats of microbes on some of Canada's oldest, thickest and most remote sea ice.

a body of water with a mountain in the snow © Provided by The Canadian Press

"They have some very interesting pigments in their cells to fend off harmful UV radiation," Mueller said in an interview.

"It's kind of a tricky thing to do, physiologically. You never know. It could very well be that someday we discover something useful out of that life."

That's one reason why he, along with colleagues and Inuit groups, are calling for stronger protections for Canada's northernmost waters as the so-called Last Ice Area rapidly lives up to its name.

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As Arctic melt accelerates, Canada moves to protect 'The Last Ice Area '. After months of bad northern climate-change news — Canada ’ s Arctic warming at three times the global rate, permafrost melting 70 years ahead of predictions, the worst polar wildfire season on record — plans have now

Environment Canada conducts science and technology activities at facilities across the country. Environment and Climate Change Canada ’ s (ECCC) Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CCCma) is located at the University of Victoria.

"It's so poorly understood," said Mueller, co-author of an article in the journal Science that urges the federal government to expand and make permanent the conservation of Tuvaijuittuq, 320,000 square kilometres of frozen ocean off the northern coast of Ellesmere Island.

Tuvaijuittuq, which means "the place where ice never melts" in Inuktut, has the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic. Because of how ice moves in ocean currents, Tuvaijuittuq is likely to be the last place it remains.

The region is provisionally protected until 2024. But Mueller said the pace of Arctic warming argues for permanent status as a Marine Protected Area connected to Quttinirpaaq National Park on Ellesmere's north coast.

Just last July, 40 per cent of the area's Milne Ice Shelf collapsed within two days -- 80 square kilometres of ice that had been stable for millennia now adrift. It happened so quickly an uninhabited research camp was lost.

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Canada ’ s making waves in marine protection . Image: Government of Canada . The Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area (denoted in red above) covers The zones lie within an area of Canada ’ s high Arctic and Greenland, which is expected to become the last surviving area of summer sea ice in the Arctic .

Arctic sea ice over the last few decades has experienced a significant decline in coverage both in summer and winter. We present high -resolution simulations and observational data as evidence of a fast current flowing along the shelf break of the Siberian and Alaskan shelves in the Arctic Ocean.

"(The area's) under threat and we're hoping for conservation measures to mitigate that," Mueller said.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association is working with the federal and Nunavut governments to determine if Tuvaijuittuuq should be permanently protected and, if so, how.

"QIA is leading an Inuit knowledge study which will really try to tackle what is current and historical Inuit use of the area," said Andrew Randall, the association's director of marine and wildlife stewardship.

"(We're) looking at cultural sites, some of the impacts associated with climate change."

Inuit want to understand what resources might lie in the area, Randall said. They also want to ensure Inuit play a role in managing and studying it, he added.

"(Research) doesn't only mean bringing in more western scientists," he said.

The Arctic sea ice ecosystem may seem desolate, but it's anything but, said Mueller. The ice supports a whole range of life important to humans and animals a long way away.

As the rest of the circumpolar world shifts under climate change, ensuring that a piece of the frozen Arctic remains free of human disturbance is key to understanding both how things used to be and what they are becoming, said Mueller.

Just this year, scientists discovered a whole ecosystem of shellfish, anemones, starfish and brittle stars living on shelves in pockets within the ice.

"What a wonderful surprise!" said Mueller. "We are now just beginning to understand this environment."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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