By Ian D. Whyte
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Extra info for A Dictionary of Environmental History
The distinctive landscape and traditional lifestyle of the islanders has attracted many visitors and commentators, including Robert J. M. Synge’s The Aran Islands (1907) (Waddell et al. 1994). Arctic sea ice Satellite records are available from 1979 and show that the long-term trend in the extent of the ice is downwards. In the ﬁve years to 2009 the ﬁve lowest summer extents have been recorded. 7 million km2 less than in 1970, even though the cloudier summer of 2009 preserved more ice (Kwok & Rothrock, 2009).
Tourist development came at an environmental cost. Forest clearance to create ski runs and high-level access roads scarred the landscape, increasing runoff, erosion, the risk of ﬂooding and avalanche damage. Resorts have caused trafﬁc congestion and pollution and increased demand for water and waste disposal. The proliferation of ski runs, roads, tracks and paths damaged alpine meadows, threatening many plant species. The need to keep resorts operating all year to make them pay led to the expansion of summer activities like walking, mountain biking, riding and white water rafting, which spread the landscape impacts of tourism even further.
The irrigation systems were badly designed, inefﬁcient and poorly maintained. 50–60% of the water never reached the ﬁelds, being lost by seepage and evaporation. The cotton crop required half the available water resources of the two river basins (Glantz 1999). Overintensive cropping led to a fall in soil fertility, which was tackled by increased use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. When these were ﬂushed into the Aral Sea they caused ecological complications. Some reduction of the sea had been expected in the original irrigation plan but impacts on local climate and ecosystems were underestimated.