Summary: The utilization of oil and gas reservoirs in a nearly ice-free Artic:
The exploitation of arctic hydrocarbons represents on the one hand a significant, as yet largely untapped energy reservoir and on the other a potentially dangerous source of contamination of marine ecosystems.
Similarly –and prompted by an increasingly retreating summer sea ice cover- enhanced shipping activities may pose significant environmental risks to the sensitive Arctic marine ecosystem. The spillage/leakage of oil in ice-covered-, but also in ice-free waters is of particular importance in this regard.
Sea ice and the low air- and water temperatures reduces the natural degradation of oil and lead to an extensive distribution of contaminated ice in the Arctic Ocean as a result of ice drift and ocean circulation. Sea ice offers a unique habitat for especially adapted sea ice communities.
These communities are of significant importance for the entire arctic food chain and are particularly vulnerable to oil contamination. Natural degradation processes are slow in the Arctic compared to mid-latitude conditions. Oil-combat technologies utilizing bioremediation through the provision of nutrients that enhance natural biodegradation processes have therefore been developed in recent years.