LOS ANGELES, June 1 (UPI) -- Global warming will greatly change arctic transportation networks, limiting access in certain areas and vastly increasing it in others, U.S. researchers say.
"Popular perception holds that climate warming will mean an opening up of the Arctic, but our study shows that this is only partly so," Laurence C. Smith, a UCLA professor of geography, said. "Rising maritime access for ships will be severely countered by falling vehicular access on land."
Researchers say improved access by sea will benefit coastal communities, coastal resource-extraction operations, tourism, fishing and shipping concerns, while the loss of land access routes could hamper inland mining and timber operations, inland oil and gas drilling, as well as smaller inland communities often inhabited by indigenous peoples, a UCLA release reported Wednesday.
"As sea ice continues to melt, accessibility by sea will increase, but the viability of an important network of roads that depend on freezing temperatures is threatened by a warming climate," said lead study author Scott Stephenson, a UCLA graduate student in geography.
All eight countries that border the Arctic -- Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States -- are expected to lose winter-road land accessibility, researchers said.
However, Greenland, Canada, Russia and the United States will enjoy increased access to offshore waterways to which they have exclusive access for fishing and other resource extraction activities, the study said.