Map Introduction

This section contains a collection of environmental sensitivity maps representing those areas in the Arctic which are especially sensitive to disturbance from ships and aircraft. The maps are coloured to represent areas of high, medium and low sensitivities. Those areas of high sensitivity (bright red) are especially important. Therefore, tables have been compiled using various research sources to indicate the species present in those areas and their corresponding sensitivity (S) and vulnerability (Vl) values. Each of the maps listed at the end of this section can be linked to the corresponding tables by clicking on the bright red zones. Much research on the Arctic still needs to be conducted. Due to this lack of information, some of the information on the tables are not complete at this time.

Seasonal Scenarios


There are six or more possible configurations for the spring ice edge in Lancaster Sound and Barrow Strait. Some configurations occur infrequently and were combined with a common similar configuration or were not considered. Three typical spring ice edge conditions in the Lancaster Sound/Barrow Strain region (denoted as Spring 1, Spring 2 and Spring 3) were used to describe biological conditions in spring. Ice edges recur at these three positions in most years. These locations actually are within envelopes of possible ice edge configurations. In addition, ice edges may remain across bays and fiords and along coasts. The spring scenarios in the Coronation Gulf region are less variable and can be summarized in one map. Therefore, there is only one spring map for the western part of the northwest passage (Coronation Gulf)


Ice conditions in summer can be quite variable. In some years, ice may remain in the Lancaster Sound area well into late summer and many bays and inlets are filled with ice. The summer ice scenario that we have used for production of the species distribution maps assumes that animals are not restricted in their distribution by ice, although ice will still be present in some bays and inlets.


Ice conditions used to depict biological fall do not correspond to ice conditions in calendar fall. Marine mammals leave the study area before or as freeze up progresses. Thus, for our purposes, fall ice conditions are similar to summer. An exception may be the that the pack ice in Barrow Strait and Prince Regent Inlet may have dispersed by fall.


Biological activity in the Arctic is very limited during the winter months. Temperature and light conditions force most species to migrate from the area. As a result, the environmental impact of ship and air traffic in the Arctic during the winter is minimized. Maps are not provided for the winter.

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Environmental Sensitivity Maps

Eastern Northwest Passage (Lancaster Sound and Area)

Western Northwest Passage (Coronation Gulf and Area)