Our planet’s story is much more than the sum of its parts, so any telling of our work to protect it is necessarily incomplete. But through our work in the Arctic and the Amazon—as with all of WWF’s work this and every year—we aspire to deliver integrated solutions that can work at a massive scale. And because these two places are so huge and threatened, and have such a powerful impact on the planet, they serve as telling examples of nature, humanity’s impact and dependence on the planet, and the many ways we are engaged with our planet every day.
Arctic ice and snow refect the sun’s energy back into space, while dark water absorbs it. So as the annual extent of sea ice declines, Arctic warming accelerates, creating a feedback loop of ever-faster changes that are already impacting the rest of the world.
As multiyear sea ice decreases, access to resources that were previously unreachable—minerals, offshore oil, and transportation routes, for example—opens up.
The Arctic is also estimated to hold 13% of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil resources and 30% of similar gas resources; in 2016, more than 1 million advocates, including 270,000 from WWF representing all 50 states, called on the US government to ban future offshore oil leasing in the US Arctic Ocean.
The Amazon’s forests are one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks, absorbing and storing massive quantities of CO2. Clearing those forests could release dangerous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.
Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in the Amazon. By the turn of the century, cattle ranching alone accounted for 80% of the Amazon’s deforested areas, causing the region to emit 340 million tons of carbon each year.
In 2016, WWF, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and a host of partners launched a global initiative to expand efficient, sustainable, ocean-friendly, and deforestation-free food production, and to help drive the food sector away from production practices that harm nature.
Unfavorable sea ice conditions caused by climate change are hindering seals’ ability to reproduce. That’s a big problem for polar bears, since seals are a primary source of food.
Research suggests that as polar bears lose more and more sea ice habitat to warming temperatures, they’ll come farther ashore in search of alternative food sources—bringing them into more frequent contact with humans.
WWF is supporting projects to reduce the risk of human-polar bear conflict in Alaskan and Russian communities via tackling climate change through our global policy work, and by helping to establish on-the-ground solutions such as polar bear patrols.
In 2010 there were 3,043 indigenous territories and similar areas in the Amazon, although not all of them were officially recognized. They represent 31.1% of the Amazon biome.
More than 300 languages are spoken in the Amazon, and indigenous groups there are culturally and ethnically diverse. Indigenous territories are generally managed in support of natural ecosystems, and are used as sources of food (hunting, fishing, foraging, small-scale farming) and natural medicine, and as central touchstones of cultural life.
The Amazon Region Protected Areas program—led by the government of Brazil and WWF—will, in combination with other protected areas and indigenous territories, secure almost 50% of the Brazilian Amazon.
Polar bears use Arctic sea ice as platforms for resting and hunting, but the region’s summer sea ice cover has shrunk an average of 14% per decade between 1979 and 2011.
The Arctic’s melting ice will have an impact on a host of other species as well, on every rung of the food chain, from sea ice algae and sub-ice plankton to walruses and whales.
WWF is developing maps that identify areas of exceptional biodiversity, climate resilience, economic opportunity, and local importance, and using them to help guide development away from the Arctic’s most ecologically vital places.
The Amazon’s lush forests couldn’t exist without the freshwater pumping through their waterways. The Amazon River alone is the largest river in the world by water volume, and roughly 15% of all river water flowing into the world’s oceans comes from its mouth.
More than 34 million people live in the Amazon, including subsistence fishers who rely on its rivers for food and income. But deforestation and hydroelectric dams have negatively impacted the Amazon’s fisheries, while overfishing is causing some species—such as the arapaima—to plummet.
WWF is working to guide hydropower in a more sustainable direction, expand sustainable aquaculture opportunities, and protect more than 25 million acres of freshwater habitat in the southwestern Amazon.