The FRAM Centre, Nature Climate Change, and Nature Reviews Earth and Environment are pleased to present the Nature Conference «A Changing Arctic». Don’t miss your chance to join us in Tromsø, June 2-5, 2020.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, we will be postponing the A Changing Arctic conference. Read more.

Robust evidence now exists for anthropogenically-forced shifts in the Earth’s environment. Observations in the Arctic reveal dramatic reductions in the extent and thickness of the sea ice, rising atmospheric temperatures, widespread permafrost degradation and ocean acidification. These changes bring with them implications for biology, ecosystem services and society in general.

Full understanding of current and projected Arctic environmental change is becoming an imperative in order to minimize and manage corresponding impacts. This conference aims to provide a forum for the three main themes of:

Land – incorporating ecological impacts, permafrost, ice sheets and landscape evolution

Climate forms the primary gradients structuring biodiversity in the terrestrial Arctic. As the climate is changing at an unprecedented speed, which is amplified in the Arctic by several positive feedback loops involving processes such as reduced albedo or elevated methane emissions, the established bioclimatic subzones are shifting northwards and in many low Arctic sites temperatures now rise above thresholds defining the Arctic.

This rapid warming has profound impacts on biota. As species expand northwards they replace endemic arctic species that are not resilient intensified competition and predation, leading to borealisation of the ecosystem. Organisms react to changes with different lags, leading to new species assemblages with consequences for ecosystem function and the services ecosystems provide.

As ecosystems move beyond the known range of variability, surprising changes can emerge, such as the new large-scale outbreak of defoliating insects with a devastating impact on the vegetation. While warmer summers lead to more plant growth, arctic vegetation is browning due to freeze damage after winter warm spells. Managing these changing ecosystems requires real-time data based on well-designed ecosystem-based monitoring and state of the art methods for near-term predictions. At the same time as climate changes, arctic socio-ecological systems are transforming under the impact of global societal changes.

Extractive industries and developing tourism increasingly coexist with traditional resource-dependent communities. Likewise, boreal-Arctic transition regions are under rapid change from the cessation of traditional farming, outfield grazing, and firewood harvest, leading to ecosystem responses similar to those from climate change impacts. In the face of these multiple challenges, a close collaboration between research, management and multiple stakeholder groups, often involving a diversity of indigenous and western cultures, is required to conserve biodiversity and guaranty the livelihood of arctic peoples.

Ocean (coastal and open) – incorporating physical changes, ocean acidification, and ecological impacts

Ocean – increasing atmospheric and ocean temperatures have led to a rapid reduction in sea ice extent and thickness. Within the Ocean theme, we will highlight key features of a number of inter-related factors such as; variability and dynamical controls on the inflow of warm and nutrient-rich Atlantic Water to the Arctic Ocean, changes in sea ice thickness and snow-to-sea ice ratio, availability of light and changes in optical properties related to changing sea ice and freshwater balance, light and nutrient controls on primary production in the Arctic Ocean, current and future changes to the ocean acidification state, changing habitats and effects on ecosystems structure, functioning and vulnerability to environmental and human pressures.

We also welcome discussion on needs for future monitoring systems, satellite remote sensing products and coupled numerical modeling tools.

The Future – covering social aspects and including mitigation, adaptation, exploration, and management

Climate change and new economic activities are rapidly transforming the Arctic. Permafrost thawing and reduced sea ice are creating new opportunities for forestry, agriculture, and mariculture. Shipping and tourism are increasing, exposing ecosystems and local communities to new pressures. Commercial fisheries are expanding into the Arctic as fish and shellfish move northwards, and shrinking sea ice is opening up the Arctic coasts for investments in mining and oil and gas exploitation.

A major challenge is to find solutions that direct the Arctic transformation into a sustainable and climate-friendly path that maintains healthy ecosystems and allows local communities and indigenous people to prosper. To succeed, we need to know where and how fast the drivers are changing, we need to build realistic future scenarios, and we need knowledge of the cumulative impacts on socio-ecological systems. We need to build local capacity for adaptation and mitigation, and we need to find solutions for transformative and inclusive governance that build on local traditions and knowledge.

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