What Is the Human Impact on the Tundra?

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One of the biggest threats to the tundra is global warming. As fossil fuels burn elsewhere on the planet, the atmosphere warms in all locations. This causes melting of permafrost, resulting in the collapse of tundra ecosystems. As permafrost melts, it allows frozen plant material to decay, releasing more carbon dioxide and accelerating global warming, according to Marietta College.

Oil and gas development also affects the tundra. While oil is difficult to extract from the tundra, corporate interests push the idea that drilling in arctic regions has the potential to offset high oil prices. Additionally, oil spills, such as the one from the March 24, 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker crash, affect wildlife in the tundra. This single crash is responsible for the death of 100,000 birds, who got trapped in the oil. In addition, fish, including halibut, herring and salmon, died due to the disaster. While the majority of the oil from the spill has been removed, some continues to impact the tundra, according to Internetgeography.

While the severe weather prevents most people from living on the tundra, pollution problems from human settlement is severe in their local region. Traditional methods of sewage treatment do not work in the cold environment.

The airborne pollutants created by man reach to the remote areas of the tundra. Scientist have found man-made pollutants, including DDT and PCBs, in measurable amounts across the region, far from the area where they are produced.