The northern exception to Europe’s ecological deficit

Still pristine and clean, but Arctic nature is under increasing pressure from human activity

The Barents region is the exception to an ecological deficit in Europe. But the long-term trend shows a reduction in biocapacity also in the north. 


The concepts of ecological reserve and deficit derive from the difference between the biocapacity, describing a territory’s ability to regenerate the material and absorb human waste, and the ecological footprint, meaning the area of productive land needed to meet the demands of human consumption. On a global scale it is estimated that 1.6 planets are needed to support the current human activity.

According to statistics from the Global Footprint Network, the Nordic and Baltic countries are the only European states that to have an ecological reserve, meaning that the biocapacity exceeds the ecological footprint of the region. In comparison, ecological net impact of the member states of the European Environmental Agency (including Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Turkey) amounts to an average deficit of slightly more than two hectares per person

In the northern region, Finland tops the list of ecological reserves with a positive balance of 8.4 hectares per person. Norway and Sweden respectively have a credit of 3.6 and 4.0 hectares per capita, followed by Russia with 2.2 hectares. Common for the Scandinavian countries is however a slow but steady reduction in biocapacity per capita over the last decades. 

While Russia has the fourth largest total biocapacity in the world, the biocapacity per capita has seen a decline with 73 percent in the last 50 years as a result of increasing domestic demands. Moreover, the Global Footprint Network reports that there are significant regional differences within Russia, with the ten strongest regions for investments making up 47 percent of the total ecological footprint in Russia.