Outbreak Session: The blue and the green Arctic – challenges and opportunities
Arctic Circle, Reykjavik October 13th 2017 – 16:25 – 17:55
Skarðsheiði on the third floor of Harpa Conference Centre
Norway is in transition and the High North is going through a sea change. The ice cover is shrinking. Fish population are on the move. Even the seawater is not quite the same as it has been. Do the changes pose a threat to Norway’s economy, or offer unique opportunities? We also see great changes on land. Changes in Northern terrestrial ecosystems are highly relevant to society, in particular for agriculture, forestry, reindeer herding and nature-based industries, species and area conservation, tourism and recreation. An update of ongoing science in the Arctic Science Capital – Tromsø.
Speakers and topics
Sustainably exploiting the arctic marine potential:
Øyvind Fylling-Jensen, CEO – Managing Director NOFIMA
SEATRACK – Large Scale Seabird Tracking in the Northeast Atlantic:
Adaptive long-term research in the face of the climate change:
Regulating Arctic Shipping: Political, legal, technological and environmental Challenges:
Tore Henriksen, Professor, UIT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø.
Reindeerherding, challenges and opportunities:
Jennifer Stien, NINA – Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.
Moderator: Dr. Jo Jorem Aarseth, Research Coordinator, The Fram Centre.
About the Fram Centre:
The Fram Centre is based in Tromsø, and consists of scientists from 20 institutions involved in interdisciplinary research and outreach in the fields of natural science, technology and social sciences.
We contribute to Norway’s sound management of the environment and natural resources in the north – and we aim at excellence in said management. With scientific research as our foundation, we communicate knowledge to management authorities, the business communities and the general public.
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More about the topics:
Sustainably exploiting the arctic marine potential
Øyvind Fylling-Jensen, CEO – Managing Director of NOFIMA AS
We can use our arctic marine resources in a better way. Suboptimal use of marine biomasses is seen in fisheries and aquaculture, where co-streams are sometimes just discarded or in other cases used for low value products. There is also an enormous potential in marine species that we are not yet fishing or exploiting at all, for example mesopelagic species.
The arctic cold-water species have different properties than the fish and shellfish from warmer waters and can thus lead to specialized products that are not available elsewhere. Products ranging from feed to food to nutraceuticals or cosmetics and even to pharma have been demonstrated from arctic biomass.
In most cases, the co-streams or the unused biomass needs to be processed in some way in order to reach its potential. The higher value products such as cosmetics or pharma usually require more processing than feed ingredients. The processes are usually developed in the laboratory and then scaled up to commercial scale.
The scale-up is a risky and potentially very expensive process, and open access demonstration plants are extremely important in order for a possible valuable product to be produced as a prototype and tested in the market. Nofima runs and operates such a plant, Biotep, an extremely flexible plant where a variety of processes can be tested and optimized without the developer making large infrastructure investments.
Access to Biotep and alike plants bridges and shortens the path from research to commercialization. Optimal utilization of the arctic biomass reduces loss and creates value from this unique type of marine resource.
Norwegian Reindeer Herding: Challenges and Opportunities
Jennifer Stien, Doctor of Science in Ecology. Researcher at Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
The reindeer husbandry industry in Norway is small but spatially extensive covering more than 40% of Norway’s land area. It has a key role in the economy, employment and culture of the sami- and local communities.
The Norwegian reindeer industry is facing large contrasts and changes in environmental conditions. It is unique in that production is outside year round and food requirements are met by food availability in grazing areas. This makes production vulnerable when resource availability is reduced.
Climate change is changing the playing field for resource availability in novel ways. While summer conditions are generally good, milder wetter winters lead to increasing ground icing and/ or deep snow with uncertain consequences for long-term herd production. Increasing temperatures and wetter weather also result in scrub encroachment, thereby reducing grazing area.
Human activity is also challenging the reindeer industry. Grazing area is being reduced by building of infrastructure and cabin complexes. Increased tourism and leisure activities in traditional grazing areas may well have an additional negative effect to climate change on reindeer condition as reindeer are shy and avoid areas with human activity.
How can reindeer herders meet these challenges? Existing research has given us a general understanding of the dynamics of changing population size due to environmental factors and life history traits. However, more research is needed to understand the consequences of unpredictable rapid changes in resource availability and its synergies with human activity on reindeer condition.
About Jennifer Stien: Doctor of Science in Ecology. Researcher at Norwegian Institute of Nature Research. Project involvement includes the National Monitoring Program For Semi-domesticated Reindeer, Svalbard Ptarmigan Hunting Trends.
SEATRACK – Large Scale Seabird Tracking in the Northeast Atlantic
Halfdan Helgi Helgason, Norwegian Polar Insititute, Project Coordinator SEATRACK
Many seabird species conduct extensive seasonal migration, often between different large marine ecosystems or between marine areas under different national jurisdictions. Until recently, it has been difficult to follow the seasonal movements of seabirds, making it particularly demanding to identify potential environmental threats to seabird populations during the non-breeding period. However, the recent development of Global Location Sensor (GLS) loggers has greatly enhanced our ability to track seabirds on a large scale, making it possible to enlighten the “black box” in the at-sea ecology of seabirds. With this method, it becomes possible to link the breeding populations to the non-breeding habitats, yielding essential information to marine spatial planning and seabird conservation. To take full advantage of this development, there is much need for coordinated multi-year, multi-site and multi-species studies. The SEATRACK program (2014-2018) with participants from Norway, UK, Faroes, Iceland and Russia, aims at identifying the year-round distribution and movements of seabirds breeding in colonies encircling the Northeast Atlantic (i.e., the Barents, Norwegian and North Seas). The program includes 11 different species from >30 breeding colonies. The program will map important marine habitats for the different species and populations, and study how changes in environmental conditions in non-breeding areas affect their demography and population trends. To date, data from 740 loggers in 2015 and 1124 loggers in 2016 have been retrieved, analyzed and compiled. Here, we present the design and major data products from the SEATRACK program. Using the results from the program, we present visualizations of the seasonal marine habitats and migration pattern of Atlantic puffins, Brünnich’s guillemots, common guillemots, liitle auks and black-legged kittiwakes. More results and information can be found in the projects interactive web-application: http://seatrack.seapop.no/map/.
Adaptive long-term research in the face of the climate change
The arctic tundra is challenged by climate change — more so than most other ecosystems on Earth. The rapid shifts to new climate regimes may give rise to new ecosystems with unknown properties. These dramatic changes call for ecosystem-based monitoring of climate impacts on arctic food webs.
The Climate-Ecological Observatory for Arctic Tundra (COAT) is a response from five Fram Centre institutions to the urgent international calls for establishment of scientifically robust observation systems that enable real time detection, documentation and understanding of climate impacts on arctic tundra ecosystems.
COAT is a system for long-term research on arctic terrestrial ecosystems. It uses a food-web approach, which combines research at the very forefront of climate-ecological science with management according to long-term adaptive protocols. Two Norwegian Arctic regions are in focus — the Low-Arctic Varanger Peninsula and the High-Arctic Svalbard — that harbour vast stretches of pristine wilderness with intact ecosystem functions and endemic biodiversity of great fundamental and societal significance. In a circumpolar perspective, these two regions provide pertinent contrasts in system complexity, climate and management regimes. COAT builds on and expands the ongoing research and long-term monitoring in both places.
“COAT Infrastructure” is essential for “COAT Science” — the long-term research program facilitated by the infrastructure. The long-term scientific endeavour will be fully operative in 2020.
Regulating Arctic Shipping: Political, legal, technological and environmental challenges
Tore Henriksen, Professor at UIT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø
What happens if a ship loaded with toxic chemicals founders in the Arctic during the dark months of the polar night? What about the crew? And the ecosystem?
This fictitious scenario formed the starting point for the major cross-disciplinary research project called ‘A-lex’, which addresses the political, legal, environmental and technological challenges connected with a completely new type of shipping in the Arctic. The background for the project was that over recent years the Arctic sea ice has melted so much that the Northeast Passage is now open for shipping. Today it is possible – for parts of the year – to sail between Asia and Europe via the Arctic. A-lex is a collaboration project between the FRAM Centre, the Faculties of Law and of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education at UiT (the Arctic University of Norway), Marintek and Akvaplan-niva. After four years, the project has now officially ended.
One of the conclusions the researchers have reached is that there is a high risk that human lives will be lost if ships founder in the Arctic. Search and rescue services are too far away if accidents occur. It is far from infrastructure, the weather is cold and variable, and in addition, there is the human factor in conditions that are so physically demanding. For instance, how would thousands of elderly people on board a cruise ship tackle this kind of situation?
The project has also uncovered a great number of legal issues concerning international regulation of shipping, liability and compensation in cases of accidents, and safety for both crews on the ships and any search and rescue crewmembers.