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International research project will investigate Arctic ecosystems under pressure from climate change

Researchers from the Department of Geoscience at Aarhus University are participating in a new research project, ECOTIP, which will investigate the impacts of climate change on the marine ecosystems in the Arctic and the cascading effects on the environment and society. The aim is to ensure sustainable use of ecosystems for generations to come.

2020.06.12 | Christina Troelsen

[Translate to English:] Et nyt internationalt samarbejde skal fremme forståelsen af klimaforandringernes virkning på den arktiske biodiversitet og de kaskadevirkninger, som biodiversitetsændringer kan have på marine økosystemer og de samfund, der er afhængige af dem, fx gennem fiskeri. Photo: Peter Prokosch /GRID-Arendal

A new international project will promote understanding of the impact of climate change on Arctic biodiversity and the cascading effects that biodiversity changes can have on marine ecosystems and the societies that depend on them, for example through fisheries. Photo: Peter Prokosch /GRID-Arendal

The ambitious new ECOTIP initiative brings together a multidisciplinary group of scientists from more than 10 countries to study ecosystem tipping cascades in the Arctic marine environment. This major international effort will advance understanding of the impacts of climate change on Arctic biodiversity and the cascading effects that biodiversity change can have on marine ecosystems, the climate services they provide, and the human communities that depend on them, for example through fisheries.

Professor Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz from the Department of Geoscience is the leading AU partner in the project, which also includes Professor Hamed Sanei and Assistant Professor Christof Pearce, also from the Department of Geoscience. The innovative four-year project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme, launched on 1 June 2020.


The tipping points of the climate have unpredictable consequences

The Arctic Ocean and its adjacent seas are changing quickly in response to temperature increase, loss of sea ice, and the combined effects of additional ecosystem stressors such as invasive species and pollution. These types of changes can induce an abrupt and sometimes irreversible change in the ecosystem – a regime shift – that can have cascading and unpredictable effects on the ecosystem services that support human communities.

The Arctic marine region is vulnerable to a series of tipping points that could bring about a regime shift of unprecedented magnitude. At stake are two critical marine ecosystem services that human societies rely on: carbon sequestration, which plays a major role in the global climate system, and fisheries production, which is the economic lifeblood of many Arctic communities.

But the scientific community currently lacks sufficient information on the mechanisms, drivers, thresholds, and consequences of ecosystem tipping cascades. ECOTIP strives to fill these knowledge gaps through a unique collaboration between experts across a range of disciplines, from ecology to socio-economics, physical oceanography, and paleo-oceanography. The scientists will conduct field research via sea expeditions, and cooperate on laboratory experiments, time series analyses, and a number of modelling approaches.

The ECOTIP project will also be enriched by ongoing dialogue with policymakers, industries, and local and indigenous communities in the Arctic. The aim is to produce sound science that empowers people to make informed decisions about adaptation and management strategies, with the aim of ensuring sustainable use of ecosystem services for generations to come.


Sixteen organizations from Europe and beyond are collaborating on ECOTIP: Aalborg University, Aarhus University, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, GRID-Arendal, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research, Hokkaido University, Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, Technical University of Denmark (DTU Aqua), UiT The Arctic University of Norway, University of Copenhagen, University of Stirling, University of Tokyo, University of Vienna, and Åbo Akademi University.

ECOTIP will contribute to building a low-carbon, climate-resilient future in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and the upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The ECOTIP project has received funding under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. The project is led by DTU Aqua, project manager Marja Koski, mak@aqua.dtu.dk.


Further information:

Professor Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz
Department of Geoscience
Aarhus University
Email: mss@geo.au.dk
Tel. 2778 2897

Department of Geoscience, Sustainability