A confluence of melting sea ice and increased demand for Arctic resources may spell disaster for the earth's last great frontier - but it doesn't have to.
Thanks to global warming, sea ice is disappearing from the Arctic at a rapidly accelerating rate. In 2007, Arctic ice was at an all-time low, and some scientists now predict an ice-free Arctic summer as early as 2013.
Declining sea ice puts the future of many of the Arctic's remarkable creatures in doubt. Ice serves as the platform for birthing seals, feeding walruses and roaming polar bears. Colorful algae colonies that live on ice form the bedrock of the marine food web. Tiny creatures feed on the algae and are in turn eaten by fish, and eventually the repercussions cascade across the food web to affect predators like narwhals and polar bears.