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photos* by peter mather in ni’iinlii’njik territorial park, an arctic oasis dead centre on the arctic circle in canada’s yukon territory. the forest resembles a coastal temperate zone due to nitrogen that finds it’s way from the dead salmon into the ecosystem. salmon literally feed the entire ecosystem, from birds, bears and wolves to moss and trees - trees which tower over anything in the surrounding stunted black spruce forest and vast tundra.

ni’iinlii’njik, which means “where salmon spawn” in gwich’in, marks the end of a 1500 mile salmon migration upriver from the pacific ocean. in 1986, the first salmon count in ni’iinlii’njik was over 350,000 fish, but in recent years has dropped as low as 9,000 due to human mismanagement. the chum salmon run this year is expected to be around 35,000. of note, the grizzly bears who feed on the salmon are known as “ice bears” for the icicles that form on their hair when hunting in temperatures that drop below minus 20 celsius.

(*is the fifth picture overhead or underwater? i’m baffled either way)

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