Across the circumpolar North large disparities in the distribution of renewable and nonrenewable resources, human population density, capital investments, and basic residential and transportation infrastructure combine to create recognizable hotspots of recent and foreseeable change. Northern Fennoscandia exemplifies a relatively benign situation due to its current economic and political stability. Northern Russia is experiencing rapid, mostly negative changes reflecting the general state of crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. North America enjoys a relatively stable regulatory structure to mitigate environmental degradation associated with industry, but is on the verge of approving massive new development schemes that would significantly expand the spatial extent of potentially affected social-ecological systems. Institutional or regulatory context influences the extent to which ecosystem services are buffered against environmental change. With or without a warming climate, certain geographic areas appear especially vulnerable to damages that may threaten their ability to supply goods and services in the near future. Climate change may exacerbate this situation in some places but may offer opportunities to enhance resilience in the long term.
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