The Arctic faces high expectations of Blue Growth due to future projections of easier access and increased biological productivity. These expectations are, however, often based on global and regional climate change projections and largely ignore the complexity of social-ecological interactions taking place across different temporal and spatial scales. This paper illustrates how such cross-scale interactions at, and across, different dimensions (e.g., ecological, socioeconomic and governance) can affect the development of Arctic fisheries; and potentially create uncertainties for future Blue Growth projections. Two Arctic marine systems, The Barents Sea and the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO), are used as focus areas. The former hosts productive fisheries and is mostly covered by the EEZs of Norway and Russia, while the latter is still mainly covered by sea-ice and is a high seas area with no multilevel governance system in place. The examples show that, both systems are affected by a number of processes, beyond the environmental change, spanning a wide range of dimensions, as well as spatial and temporal scales. To address the complexity of the Arctic marine systems calls for an increase in holistic scientific understanding together with adaptive management practices. This is particularly important in the CAO, where no robust regional management structures are in place. Recognizing how cross-scale dynamics can cause uncertainties to the current fisheries projections and implementing well-functioning adaptive management structures across different Arctic sub-systems can play a key role in whether the Blue Growth potential in Arctic fisheries is realized or lost.
Climate change triggers poleward shifts in species distribution leading to changes in biogeography. In the marine environment, fish respond quickly to warming, causing community-wide reorganizations, which result in profound changes in ecosystem functioning. Functional biogeography provides a framework to address how ecosystem functioning may be affected by climate change over large spatial scales. However, there are few studies on functional biogeography in the marine environment, and none in the Arctic, where climate-driven changes are most rapid and extensive. We investigated the impact of climate warming on the functional biogeography of the Barents Sea, which is characterized by a sharp zoogeographic divide separating boreal from Arctic species. Our unique dataset covered 52 fish species, 15 functional traits, and 3,660 stations sampled during the recent warming period. We found that the functional traits characterizing Arctic fish communities, mainly composed of small-sized bottom-dwelling benthivores, are being rapidly replaced by traits of incoming boreal species, particularly the larger, longer lived, and more piscivorous species. The changes in functional traits detected in the Arctic can be predicted based on the characteristics of species expected to undergo quick poleward shifts in response to warming. These are the large, generalist, motile species, such as cod and haddock. We show how functional biogeography can provide important insights into the relationship between species composition, diversity, ecosystem functioning, and environmental drivers. This represents invaluable knowledge in a period when communities and ecosystems experience rapid climate-driven changes across biogeographical regions.
Marine spatial planning is increasingly used to manage the demands on marine areas, both spatially and temporally, where several different users may compete for resources or space, to ensure that development is as sustainable as possible. Diminishing sea-ice coverage in the Arctic will allow for potential increases in economic exploitation, and failure to plan for cross-sectoral management could have negative economic and environmental results. During the ACCESS programme, a marine spatial planning tool was developed for the Arctic, enabling the integrated study of human activities related to hydrocarbon exploitation, shipping and fisheries, and the possible environmental impacts, within the context of the next 30 years of climate change. In addition to areas under national jurisdiction, the Arctic Ocean contains a large area of high seas. Resources and ecosystems extend across political boundaries. We use three examples to highlight the need for transboundary planning and governance to be developed at a regional level.
Reduced sea ice has made the Arctic Ocean more accessible for vessel traffic. In turn, the heightened interest to better understand rapidly changing sea ice dynamics, ecosystems, and related ocean processes in the Arctic Ocean has led to closer interactions with and the need to avoid potential conflicts between scientific researchers and Indigenous coastal communities. In particular, researchers need to minimize spatial and temporal overlap of science activities with subsistence hunts as the Arctic is essential to Indigenous communities for their food security and cultural heritage. In this regard, a Community and Environmental Compliance Standard Operating Procedure (CECSOP) was recently developed for the R/V Sikuliaq, which is owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and is part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. The CECSOP was developed with input and guidance from Alaska Indigenous community groups, state and federal agencies, and sea-going scientists. Here the document's basic principles and procedures are described, as well as its utility in helping guide constructive discussions and interactions between scientific users of R/V Sikuliaq and subsistence hunting communities when research and subsistence hunt activities have spatial and temporal overlap. The CECSOP is a “living” document and subject to future modifications and improvements. It may serve as a model for other scientific, commercial and industrial vessel operators to ensure best practices between subsistence hunting communities and vessel operators in the Arctic.
The biodiversity, ecosystem services and climate variability of the Antarctic continent and the Southern Ocean are major components of the whole Earth system. Antarctic ecosystems are driven more strongly by the physical environment than many other marine and terrestrial ecosystems. As a consequence, to understand ecological functioning, cross-disciplinary studies are especially important in Antarctic research. The conceptual study presented here is based on a workshop initiated by the Research Programme Antarctic Thresholds – Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, which focussed on challenges in identifying and applying cross-disciplinary approaches in the Antarctic. Novel ideas and first steps in their implementation were clustered into eight themes. These ranged from scale problems, through risk maps, and organism/ecosystem responses to multiple environmental changes and evolutionary processes. Scaling models and data across different spatial and temporal scales were identified as an overarching challenge. Approaches to bridge gaps in Antarctic research programmes included multi-disciplinary monitoring, linking biomolecular findings and simulated physical environments, as well as integrative ecological modelling. The results of advanced cross-disciplinary approaches can contribute significantly to our knowledge of Antarctic and global ecosystem functioning, the consequences of climate change, and to global assessments that ultimately benefit humankind.