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.
Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) have a nearly circumpolar distribution, and occasionally occupy warmer shallow coastal areas during summertime that may facilitate molting. However, relatively little is known about the occurrence of molting and associated behaviors in bowhead whales. We opportunistically observed whales in Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, Canada with skin irregularities consistent with molting during August 2014, and collected a skin sample from a biopsied whale that revealed loose epidermis and sloughing. During August 2016, we flew a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) over whales to take video and still images to: 1) determine unique individuals; 2) estimate the proportion of the body of unique individuals that exhibited sloughing skin; 3) determine the presence or absence of superficial lines representative of rock-rubbing behavior; and 4) measure body lengths to infer age-class. The still images revealed that all individuals (n = 81 whales) were sloughing skin, and that nearly 40% of them had mottled skin over more than two-thirds of their bodies. The video images captured bowhead whales rubbing on large rocks in shallow, coastal areas—likely to facilitate molting. Molting and rock rubbing appears to be pervasive during late summer for whales in the eastern Canadian Arctic.
Asymmetrical intraguild predation (AIGP), which combines both predation and competition between predator species, is pervasive in nature with relative strengths varying by prey availability. But with species redistributions associated with climate change, the response by endemic predators within an AIGP context to changing biotic–abiotic conditions over time (i.e. seasonal and decadal) has yet to be quantified. Furthermore, little is known on AIGP dynamics in ecosystems undergoing rapid directional change such as the Arctic. Here, we investigate the flexibility of AIGP among two predators in the same trophic guild: beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) and Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides), by season and over 30 years in Cumberland Sound—a system where forage fish capelin (Mallotus villosus) have recently become more available. Using stable isotopes, we illustrate different predator responses to temporal shifts in forage fish availability. On a seasonal cycle, beluga consumed less Greenland halibut and increased consumption of forage fish during summer, contrasting a constant consumption rate of forage fish by Greenland halibut year-round leading to decreased AIGP pressure between predators. Over a decadal scale (1982–2012), annual consumption of forage fish by beluga increased with a concomitant decline in the consumption of Greenland halibut, thereby indicating decreased AIGP pressure between predators in concordance with increased forage fish availability. The long-term changes of AIGP pressure between endemic predators illustrated here highlights climate-driven environmental alterations to interspecific intraguild interactions in the Arctic.
Participatory scenario planning (PSP) approaches are increasingly being used in research on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability (IAV). We identify and evaluate how PSP has been used in IAV studies in the Arctic, reviewing work published in the peer-reviewed and grey literature (n = 43). Studies utilizing PSP commonly follow the stages recognized as ‘best practice’ in the general literature in scenario planning, engaging with multiple ways of knowing including western science and traditional knowledge, and are employed in a diversity of sectors. Community participation, however, varies between studies, and climate projections are only utilized in just over half of the studies reviewed, raising concern that important future drivers of change are not fully captured. The time required to conduct PSP, involving extensive community engagement, was consistently reported as a challenge, and for application in Indigenous communities requires careful consideration of local culture, values, and belief systems on what it means to prepare for future climate impacts.