Polar Ecosystem
Inch in a Pinch
"I'm Inch in a Pinch andInch in a Pinch Caterpillar 
I would like to introduce you to the Polar Ecosystem. This ecosystem consists of two regions:
Arctic and Antarctic
One way to distinguish these regions is that polar bears live in the Arctic, not the Antarctic and penguins live in the Antarctic, but none live in the Arctic! Let's learn a little bit about this ecosystem. Here's what we know..."  
 
Facts
Bullet The polar regions, covering some 20% of our planet, play a fundamental role in the physical, chemical and biological operation of the whole Earth system and contain major biological and mineral resources.
   
Bullet
Antarctica
Antarctica
Covered by massive areas of thick ice, the Arctic (North Pole) and the Antarctic (South Pole) are the coldest habitats in the world! Arctic
Arctic
   
Bullet Since the temperature hardly ever goes above freezing in either area, the land and the sea are frozen most of the year!
   
Bullet At both the North Pole and the South Pole, in summer, the sun never sets and in winter, it never rises!
   
Bullet Survival in these habitats is very difficult. The plants and animals that do live in these habitats have developed some unique methods for surviving the frigid temperatures.
   
Bullet Because the conditions in the Polar Ecosystem are so severe and unforgiving, both the ecosystem, animals and plants are much more vulnerable to any kind of human disturbance!
   
Bullet As world attention is being drawn to global-scale problems, the polar regions are assuming increasingly significant global scientific importance for the following reasons:
 
1. Polar regions are an important influence on the global climate system.

2. Climate change will be greatest and most detectable in polar regions.

3. The temperature, salinity and circulation of the ocean is influenced strongly by polar dynamics.

4. Polar regions provide unique records of past climate changes and phenomena in ice cores and other sedimentary deposits.

5. The polar upper atmosphere provides a window on space weather processes.

6. Organisms and ecosystems exhibit unique adaptation to extreme environments.

7. Polar oceans are highly productive and support major fisheries.

Information from Strategy for Polar Science 
   
Bullet The Arctic and the Antarctic are in many respects very different, although they have common characteristics. Both magnetic poles exert a major influence on global atmosphere, ocean circulation and climate.
Inch in a Pinch Caterpillar "Boy, this sure is a different kind of place, isn't it? Because it is so difficult for man to survive in these two regions, the entire Polar Ecosystem really has yet to be completely explored and studied. Evenso, this ecosystem is already in trouble. The reasons are listed below. Read through them and then we'll talk about what you can do to help. Take your time. Make sure you understand the reasons. It's important!"
 
Threats to the Polar Ecosystem
Bullet Resource extraction - habitat can be destroyed and wildlife forever disturbed in poorly managed resource extraction.
   
Bullet Decreasing ozone layers over both poles - the food chain can change as holes in the ozone layer allow increasing amounts of UV light to permeate the ocean. This damages the phytoplankton and reduces abundance. As a result, all other animals in the food chain are affected.
   
Bullet Overfishing - the high demand for fish as a food source is depleting our oceans' supply. Some fish populations are so low that it is doubtful they can be saved from extinction.
   
Bullet Oil spills - in polar conditions, oil breaks down 100 times more slowly than in temperate waters.
   
Bullet Pollution - runoff from farmland and even our backyards and streets contains toxic chemicals from pesticides and herbicides man uses to control unwanted pests and weeds. This runoff eventually ends up in the ocean.
"These are all very seriousInch in a Pinch Caterpillar
problems for the Polar Ecosystem. With your help, we can do something about these threats before they destroy this very important ecosystem. Read on for some suggestions about what you can do to help." 
 
Things You Can Do To Help
Bullet Some of the largest oil and mineral deposits in the world have been found in the Arctic. Extraction of these resources will continue at breakneck speed as long as there is a high demand for them. This is being done at the expense of the wildlife and wildlife habitat in these areas. In order to help, we need to cut down on the demand for these resources. Huge volumns of petroleum products go into automobiles. By cutting back on the amount you drive your car, you can help decrease the demand for oil. Carpool, walk or bicycle as often as you can!
   
Bullet You have an important role to play in protecting the ozone layer. Together, we can take action by phasing CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and other ozone-depleting chemicals out of your life.
1. Make sure your freezers and refrigerators are carefully serviced, and that CFCs are recovered and recycled rather than just replaced.
2. Avoid installing CFC-dependent air conditioning systems in your car. Use alternatives such as cardboard window screens to cool your parked car. If you have car air conditioning, make sure it is properly maintained and that the CFCs are recycled and recovered when serviced.
   
 
Did you know?
If all ozone-depleting chemicals were successfully phased out, the ozone layer would eventually heal itself.
   
Bullet It is important to have in office, representatives who will strictly enforce fishing quotas. Use the power of the vote - YOUR VOTE - to elect government officials who are "pro environment" and who will always keep the rights and needs of wildlife in mind.
   
Bullet By lessening the high demand for oil products as discussed in #1 in this section, you can also help decrease the need for oil to be transported around the globe thus decreasing the risk of oil spills.
   
Bullet Use non-chemical methods for getting rid of unwanted weeds. Below are a few ideas.
 
1. The easiest method is to use your hand. One tip, however - water the soil before you pull the weed. It will make your job that much easier. Grab the weed as close to the soil as you can, twist, and pull.

2. There are a lot of tools out there made especially for weeding, like the dandelion digger, the angle weeder, and for big jobs, the weed hound. This last one is a favorite. Just put the prongs right on top of the crown of the dandelion, step down, twist, pull it up, and POP! the weed is gone.

3. Believe it or not, just a couple layers of newspaper spread out on the garden soil will smother weeds. But you do want to make sure you anchor the newspaper down with rocks, soil, or mulch. It will decompose and enrich the soil.

4. Three inches of mulch spread out on the ground will block out the sun and prevent the weeds from germinating.

5. As a last resort, use army blankets. These work especially well between garden rows. They allow moisture in, block out the sun, and they last for a good two years.
Inch in a Pinch Caterpillar "There are links provided, in case you want to learn more about the Polar Ecosystem. Please check them out before you leave. Please, also, take a look at your life and see if there isn't some place where you can use one or two of the ideas presented above. This ecosystem is so unique. We really can't afford to lose it!"
Links 
Polar environments in the north and in the south
AWI - More than Polar Bears and Penguins
"Are you ready to continue?Inch in a Pinch Caterpillar
Just choose one of the following buttons and we're outta' here! If you are ready for a habitat adventure, click the Polar bear below! I'll join you there."

Navigation Arrow On to Antarctica!
Inch in a Pinch Caterpillar"If you want to go back and learn about another ecosystem. Click the Polar bear below!"

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