The Arctic wilderness is far from untouched. For example, concentrations of environmentally hazardous PCBs in polar bears in Svalbard have been found to be up to six times higher than in polar bears in Canada. Because of the difficult climate and other natural conditions and the large areas involved, monitoring the environment in the Arctic is a major undertaking.
Growing pressure from human activity
The Arctic environment is under growing pressure from human activity. Tourists are heading deeper into the wilderness, and more and more people wish to experience the untouched nature that can only be found in polar regions.
Commercial and industrial activities are also expanding further into the Arctic, and new technology is giving access to areas and resources that were once out of reach. Because the Arctic environment is so vulnerable, it is increasingly important to investigate the Arctic ecosystems and the impacts of these developments.
Management of the natural environment
In recent years, the Norwegian environmental authorities have given higher priority to management of the natural environment in Norway’s territories in the Arctic. This means Svalbard (Spitsbergen and the rest of the archipelago), Jan Mayen, Bjørnøya (Bear Island) and the surrounding territorial waters. Norway has set ambitious goals for its management of the Arctic environment, one of which is for Svalbard to become one of the best managed wilderness areas in the world.