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Summary of wildlife-related research on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, 2002–17

January 23, 2018

We summarize recent (2002–17) publicly available information from studies within the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as terrestrial and coastal ecosystems elsewhere on the Arctic Coastal Plain that are relevant to the 1002 Area. This report provides an update on earlier research summaries on caribou (Rangifer tarandus), forage quality and quantity, polar bears (Ursus maritimus), muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus), and snow geese (Chen caerulescens). We also provide information on new research related to climate, migratory birds, permafrost, coastal erosion, coastal lagoons, fish, water resources, and potential effects of industrial disturbance on wildlife. From this literature review, we noted evidence for change in the status of some wildlife and their habitats, and the lack of change for others. In the 1002 Area, muskox numbers have decreased and the Porcupine Caribou Herd has exhibited variation in use of the area during the calving season. Polar bears are now more common on shore in summer and fall because of declines in sea ice in the Beaufort Sea. In a study spanning 25 years, there were no significant changes in vegetation quality and quantity, soil conditions, or permafrost thaw in the coastal plain of the 1002 Area. Based on studies from the central Arctic Coastal Plain, there are persistent and emerging uncertainties about the long-term effects of energy development for caribou. In contrast, recent studies that examined direct and indirect effects of industrial activities and infrastructure on birds in the central Arctic Coastal Plain found little effect for the species and disturbances examined, except for the possibility of increased predator activity near human developments.