From climate change to the increasing use of the region and its resources by humans, Arctic marine ecosystems are facing a range of challenges. Activities like shipping, fishing, and oil and gas exploration and extraction will all impact upon these unique systems, while changing trends in oceanographic and biogeochemical processes will also affect how they function.
The challenges presented and opportunities offered by the provision of ecosystem services in the Arctic will take centre stage for one theme session during the Annual Science Conference in Riga in September. It will deal with research already carried out in the area as well as the identification of gaps in knowledge and new and emerging issues requiring research.
"The most pressing research issue in the Arctic is lack of sustained observation," explained NOAA's Jeremy Mathis, who will co-chair the session alongside Kriss Rokkan Iversen, marine ecological scientist and founder of independent consultant company SALT. "The gap in our ability to collect information is significantly hampering our understanding of things like ecosystem services and climate change. The good news is that technologies have really emerged in the last few years that will make observation cheaper and easier, which should greatly increase the volume of data we have to work with."
Papers on a number of topics are being sought for the session, including ecosystem components from benthos to marine mammals, ocean acidification, and the influence of anthropogenic pressures. Mathis outlined other lines of enquiry.
"Two other big issues that we are just starting to think about are the tele-connections that may exist between Arctic sea ice loss and weather pattern across the norther hemisphere. Additionally, people are starting to think about commercial fisheries in the Arctic, and although there is a current moratorium on this, there is an urgent need to quantify fish stocks so that sound management practices can be developed in the event that fisheries are opened. I hope we can cover all of these topics during the session through invited talks and open discussions."
Following the session, a half-day stakeholder workshop will be held to discuss and identify needs for Arctic research on marine issues, based on the scientific presentations in the session.
Theme Session P 'Arctic ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities' will be co-convened by ICES, the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a working group of the Arctic Council, and EU Horizon 2020 Coordination and Support Action EU-PolarNet.
Photo: Jeremy Potter, NOAA/OAR/OER