Shoreline Response in the Arctic

In addition to rocky shores and gravel/sand beaches similar to those found at lower latitudes, several shoreline types are unique to the Arctic. Tundra cliffs, inundated tundra, permafrost and peat shores are all sensitive to physical disturbance and will require specialised approaches to clean-up. On ice or ice-covered shorelines, ice scour means intertidal community diversity and richness tend to be low, and animals are likely to be adapted to a high degree of physical stress.

Natural recovery may be the least damaging option for sensitive shorelines, and may be the only available option depending on the location and time of year. The potential for oil to become trapped in ice over winter means clean-up may need to be postponed until the spring. If possible, however, bulk oil should be removed before freeze-up to avoid it being remobilised during the thaw. The oil type and the exposure and permeability of the shoreline will also dictate whether or not an active response is necessary.

Clean-up of ice and snow-covered shorelines, inundated tundra, and tundra cliffs will raise access issues and health and safety considerations. However the potential damage caused by clean-up workers means it may be preferable to clean sensitive tundra/peat shorelines when frozen over winter.

Techniques that can treat oiled sediment in situ will be preferential to minimise waste. This could include sediment relocation, tilling, flushing, or surfwashing. Low ambient temperatures may however impact the efficacy of some equipment such as pumps. As snow is a natural sorbent, there is the potential for large quantities of oily snow and ice waste to be generated, so where possible oil and water should be separated.

Example of specialised equipment
Shoreline response