Santa and his neighbors
Even though the ice of the Northpole is connected to two countries (Canada and Greenland) and therefore does not have a completely seperate ecosystem it has – because of its climatic conditions – developed a singular living environment for animals and plants.
At the very beginning of the sometimes rather short food chain of the Arctic are different kind of algae (e. g. the artic ice alga) and other microorganisms, who live on the ice and under it. These little organisms are true survivalists, especially the algae, which do not really need sunlight for their photosynthesis.
The algae and microorganisms are eaten by zooplankton (that is an organism that does not perform phtosynthesis but eats other organisms instead), which in turn attracts many different kinds of fish, for example the cod or the herring, as well as the baleen whale. The fish are an easy prey for seals. These mammals are – due their fur and their layer of fat – perfectly adapted to the life in the cold. While they are born with a dense layer of fur, they loose it in the course of the years, and it is replaced by short hair. Walruses, that also belong to the group of seals, do not have any pelage at all. Walruses, which also belong to the group of seals, do not have any fur or hairs at all. They all live in big colonies in the water but every once in a while they also seek out the coasts where they for example raise their offspring.
In the Arctic summer, where there is at least a couple of hours of sunlight a day, you can also find other creatures. There are caribous, musk oxes but also Arctic foxes, Arctic hares and wolves. Not to forget of course the draft animals of Santa Clause: reindeers. However, all those animals are not quiet as adapted to living in the cold as are for example seals, that is why they leave for ice-free regions during the Arctic winter.
At the very end of the food chain on the ice at the North Pole is the polar bear. That mammal, which is perfectly adapted to the life in the Arctic, lives on the ice as well as in the water. These excellent swimmers often cover a distance of a couple of hundred miles without a break. They possess a high tolerance against the cold – due to their dense fur (its hair are hollow) and the thick layer of fat. They hunt seals and other animals and only eat plants when they do not get their paws on meat.
But not only on the ice do many animals find their habitat. There are also a lot of animals in the water who have their living environment there. The two biggest mammals are the blue whale and the finnback. There are also the plankton eaters, namely the bowhead whale, the humpback whale and the minke whale who have their home there. But because of the hunt on whales, which is still a danger to them, the population is decreasing considerably.
Adding to that problem of decreasing population (not only of the whales but also the seals, polar bears, ect.) is the overfishing of the Northern Atlantic, which is endangering the fragil equilibrium of the food chain. Also oil drillings and the increaing noisiness of ships threaten that singual living space. The most dangerous threat however is undoubtly the climate changer. The pack ice continues to become smaller and smaller, which is a problem for all the animals living there since it cuts short their living and hunting space.
So it is definitely time to do something against it! Musicians like 30 Seconds to Mars, who produced the song „A Beautiful Lie“ (the band was the first band permitted to shot the video to that song in the Arctic) to raise awareness of the situation at the Arctic are only one example for people, who have realized the sersiousness of the problem.
But also film makes like Alastair Fothergill, who shot the seven part nature documentary „Frozen Planet“. He wants to point people's awareness to the bad condition of the North and South pole, as well as to the threat of the animals (especially of the polar bear and the polar wolf in the Arctic and the adelie penguin and the wandering albatross in the Antarcic). With spectacular and daunting pictures the live of the animals but also the threat that we humans are to them (with our increasing need and greed for more and the resulting climate change) are portrayed during the different seasons of the year. „To the Ends of the Earth“, „Spring“, „Summer“, „Autumn“, „Winter“, „The Last Fontier“ and „On Thin Ice“ are the titels of the seven parts of the documentary, which is narrated by David Attenborough. The perfectly displayed graphical material does chase goose bumps over your body not only once. I highly recommend watching „Frozen Planet“ if you get the chance!
Trailer Frozen Planet:
And with that, we come to the end of our journey of the North Pole. Sadly, we did not meet Santa Clause but I still hope you learned to appreciate the North Pole for what it is: A singular living environment with singular animals.
Article by Nathalie W.
„Frozen Planet“ Documentation