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Geography   >   Arctic Environments

The Arctic Environment

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Arctic Environments

In this course, Dr Ilona Kater (University of Cambridge) explores physical, ecological and human aspects of the Arctic environment. In the first module, we introduce and define the Arctic, and look at some of its physical characteristics, including its changeable climate, its biomes, and its landscapes. The second module considers Arctic ecosystems, adaptations by species to the region’s often difficult and variable conditions, and the impacts of climate change on ecological processes. In the third module, we think about the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, some of their traditional livelihoods and cultures, and how they have been affected by colonialism. The fourth module then examines the region’s natural resources, including mineral deposits and fossil fuels, difficulties in accessing these, and the green energy transition in the Arctic. We conclude with a fifth module on governance, outlining territorial claims in the Arctic, the historical marginalisation of indigenous populations in the competition for control of the region, and how governance is conducted today through the Arctic Council.

The Arctic Environment

In this module, we introduce the Arctic and its physical environment. We focus on: (i) common ways of defining the region, most importantly the Arctic Circle, 10ºC July Isotherm, and Arctic tree line, in terms of their uses and limitations; (ii) the Arctic environment as one of extreme changeability - it varies seasonally from 24-hour sunlight to 24-hour darkness, experiences heatwaves and wildfires, and changes annually in land surface area as sea ice expands and contracts; (iii) the main biomes of the Arctic region - boreal forest, tundra, and polar desert; (iv) permafrost and its influence on both the physical environment and ecological processes; (v) how seasonal freezing and thawing of terrestrial ice shapes the landscape, produces distinctive landforms, and impacts humans and animals by creating highly changeable and unstable ground surfaces; (vi) adaptations by humans living in the region to this instability, for example building houses with adjustable stilts.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Kater, I. (2024, April 01). Arctic Environments - The Arctic Environment [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Kater, I. "Arctic Environments – The Arctic Environment." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Apr 2024,

Image Credits


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Dr Ilona Kater

University of Cambridge