Polar oceans, though remote in location, are not immune to the accumulation of plastic debris. The present study, investigated for the first time, the abundance, distribution and composition of microplastics in sub-surface waters of the Arctic Central Basin. Microplastic sampling was carried out using the bow water system of icebreaker Oden (single depth: 8.5 m) and CTD rosette sampler (multiple depths: 8–4369 m). Potential microplastics were isolated and analysed using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR). Bow water sampling revealed that the median microplastic abundance in near surface waters of the Polar Mixed Layer (PML) was 0.7 particles m−3. Regarding the vertical distribution of microplastics in the ACB, microplastic abundance (particles m−3) in the different water masses was as follows: Polar Mixed Layer (0–375) > Deep and bottom waters (0–104) > Atlantic water (0–95) > Halocline i.e. Atlantic or Pacific (0–83).
This paper assesses the value and environmental feasibility of Arctic shipping by reviewing the relevant scientific and economic peer-reviewed literature. From the physical perspective, this paper examines the impact of climate change on sea ice and marine weather and considers the resultant consequences for Arctic shipping accessibility. From an economic perspective, it reviews the major research investigating the economic feasibility of diverting ships from conventional shipping routes to Arctic routes, the attitudes of shipping stakeholders, and other major factors affecting the prospect of Arctic shipping. This review also identifies important research gaps. Ultimately, we find that the complex environmental and economic dynamics of the Arctic suggest that an appropriate understanding of Arctic shipping will require close collaboration between natural and social scientists.
Global changes in climate, connectivity, and commerce are having profound impacts on the Arctic environment and inhabitants. There is widespread recognition of the value of incorporating different worldviews and perspectives when seeking to understand the consequences of these impacts. In turn, attention to local needs, perspectives, and cultures is seen as essential for fostering effective adaptation planning, or more broadly, the resilience of local peoples. The emerging literature on “knowledge co-production” identifies factors that can help incorporate such local information. This field focuses on how different models of what has been termed the “science-policy interface” can incorporate multiple epistemologies. Such an approach goes beyond observing or assessing change from different scales and perspectives, to defining conditions that support the co-production of actionable knowledge. This approach requires the development of response tools that can accommodate the dynamic relationships among people, wildlife, and habitats that straddle cultures, timescapes, and sometimes, national boundaries. We use lessons from seven Alaskan cases studies to describe a typology of five elements important for the co-production of locally relevant actionable knowledge. Three elements are consistent with earlier work, including 1) evolving communities of practice, 2) iterative processes for defining problems and solutions, and 3) presence of boundary organizations, such as a government agency, university, or co-management council. Our results for the Alaskan Arctic also emphasize the critical need to incorporate 4) the consistent provision of sufficient funds and labor that may transcend any one specific project goal or funding cycle, and 5) long temporal scales (sometimes decades) for achieving the co-production of actionable knowledge. Our results have direct relevance to understanding the mechanisms that might foster greater success in more formalized co-management regimes.
The first part of this article explores the extent to which the European Union (EU) is an actor in the law of the sea. After explaining when, why and how the EU became such an actor, it considers the legal and political constraints on the capacity of the EU to act; the interests that have shaped its role as an actor; and the various means by which it acts. The second part of the article applies the conclusions from this analysis to outline the role that the EU has so far played in the ongoing development of the legal regime of the marine Arctic and to predict the role that it will continue to play, especially as regards navigation, fisheries, the exploitation of offshore oil and gas, and the protection of the environment.
New economic developments in the Arctic, such as shipping and oil exploitation, bring along unprecedented risks of marine oil spills. Microorganisms have played a central role in degrading and reducing the impact of the spilled oil during past oil disasters. However, in the Arctic, and in particular in its pristine areas, the self-cleaning capacity and biodegradation potential of the natural microbial communities have yet to be uncovered.
This review compiles and investigates the current knowledge with respect to environmental parameters and biochemical constraints that control oil biodegradation in the Arctic. Hereby, seawaters off Greenland are considered as a case study. Key factors for biodegradation include the bioavailability of hydrocarbons, the presence of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria and the availability of nutrients. We show how these key factors may be influenced by the physical oceanographic conditions in seawaters off Greenland and other environmental parameters including low temperature, sea ice, sunlight regime, suspended sediment plumes and phytoplankton blooms that characterize the Arctic.
Based on the acquired insights, a first qualitative assessment of the biodegradation potential in seawaters off Greenland is presented. In addition to the most apparent Arctic characteristics, such as low temperature and sea ice, the impact of typical Arctic features such as the oligotrophic environment, poor microbial adaptation to hydrocarbon degradation, mixing of stratified water masses, and massive phytoplankton blooms and suspended sediment plumes merit to be topics of future investigation.
The Arctic has been an integrated part of the international system for centuries, and systemic developments have deeply influenced the region and its communities. Central Arctic Ocean marine resource governance is in the nexus of climate change and international systemic developments. The international systemic context for the Arctic is: The rise of China and emerging Asian economies driving gradual power transition from Western to Eastern states. Struggles continue over the domestic order and international position of post-Soviet Russia, where either side considers whether to escalate the Ukraine crisis horizontally to the Arctic. The USA and China interact concerning governing Arctic marine resources as Arctic Ocean coastal state/status quo power and fishing nation/rising power. Russia and the West choose not to escalate the Ukraine crisis horizontally into Arctic marine resource management. Co-creating of knowledge and epistemic communities are important for Arctic status quo and rising Asian countries to manage power transition in the Arctic and for Russia and the West to continue Arctic cooperation despite political crisis elsewhere.
Future estimates indicate that the reduction of the Arctic ice cap will open up new areas and increase the viability of the region to be increasingly used for international shipping (Liu and Kronbak, J Trans Geo 18(3):434–444. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2009.08.004, 2010). The Arctic sea routes and related coastal area are therefore gaining increasing levels of interest, as they become a more attractive alternative for maritime transport. This demand for new infrastructure and development in areas where there has previously been little or none, presents a unique situation to analyze. The increased interest and demand for new development along Arctic sea routes through an environmentally sensitive region make the Arctic an ideal area of which to study the transition toward liquefied natural gas becoming the prominent marine fuel.
We must develop a better understanding of how and under what conditions such a transition will take place and who will make decisions that will influence any such transition. Exploring past and current aspects of maritime and energy governance is an important step in developing an understanding of how a transition towards liquefied natural gas could re-shape our understanding of Arctic governance.
The Arctic Ocean and its surrounding shelf seas are warming much faster than the global average, which potentially opens up new distribution areas for temperate-origin marine phytoplankton. Using over three decades of continuous satellite observations, we show that increased inflow and temperature of Atlantic waters in the Barents Sea resulted in a striking poleward shift in the distribution of blooms of Emiliania huxleyi, a marine calcifying phytoplankton species. This species’ blooms are typically associated with temperate waters and have expanded north to 76°N, five degrees further north of its first bloom occurrence in 1989. E. huxleyi's blooms keep pace with the changing climate of the Barents Sea, namely ocean warming and shifts in the position of the Polar Front, resulting in an exceptionally rapid range shift compared to what is generally detected in the marine realm. We propose that as the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean further atlantifies and ocean temperatures continue to rise, E. huxleyi and other temperate-origin phytoplankton, could well become resident bloom formers in the Arctic Ocean.
Rising temperatures in the Arctic Ocean region are responsible for changes such as reduced ice cover, permafrost thawing, and increased river discharge, which, together, alter nutrient and carbon cycles over the vast Arctic continental shelf. We show that the concentration of radium-228, sourced to seawater through sediment-water exchange processes, has increased substantially in surface waters of the central Arctic Ocean over the past decade. A mass balance model for 228Ra suggests that this increase is due to an intensification of shelf-derived material inputs to the central basin, a source that would also carry elevated concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and nutrients. Therefore, we suggest that significant changes in the nutrient, carbon, and trace metal balances of the Arctic Ocean are underway, with the potential to affect biological productivity and species assemblages in Arctic surface waters.
The sensitivity of Antarctic sea-ice to increasing glacial freshwater release into the Southern Ocean is studied in a series of 31-year ocean/sea-ice/iceberg model simulations. Glaciological estimates of ice-shelf melting and iceberg calving are used to better constrain the spatial distribution and magnitude of freshwater forcing around Antarctica. Two scenarios of glacial freshwater forcing have been designed to account for a decadal perturbation in glacial freshwater release to the Southern Ocean. For the first time, this perturbation explicitly takes into consideration the spatial distribution of changes in the volume of Antarctic ice shelves, which is found to be a key component of changes in freshwater release. In addition, glacial freshwater-induced changes in sea ice are compared to typical changes induced by the decadal evolution of atmospheric states. Our results show that, in general, the increase in glacial freshwater release increases Antarctic sea ice extent. But the response is opposite in some regions like the coastal Amundsen Sea, implying that distinct physical mechanisms are involved in the response. We also show that changes in freshwater forcing may induce large changes in sea-ice thickness, explaining about one half of the total change due to the combination of atmospheric and freshwater changes. The regional contrasts in our results suggest a need for improving the representation of freshwater sources and their evolution in climate models.