A new major UK research programme with collaborations from 16 UK institutes including PML will examine the impact of diminishing sea ice on the vulnerable marine environment of the Arctic Ocean.
The Arctic is the fastest-changing environment on the planet, with rising global temperatures causing extreme thinning and decline in the extent of its summer sea ice. However, whilst it supports vital, complex ecosystems, the Arctic Ocean and how it will respond to future environmental change is still at present poorly-understood.
PML scientists will this year, through two different projects and with c. £500K of Natural Environment Research Council, (NERC) investment, research how life in the Arctic Ocean is coping with these dramatic changes. Of particular focus will be how changing sea ice cover will affect ecosystem function on the Arctic Ocean floor, and the marine life dependent on these ecosystems for survival. The scientists will also investigate the survival capacity of key species in the food webs such as small creatures which are essential to the diet of whales, seals and fish, studying the ocean floor and measuring the health and resilience of the environment.
Professor Steve Widdicombe, Head of Marine Ecology and Biodiversity at PML commented:
“This is an exciting opportunity to document the impacts of climate change on one of the planet’s most vulnerable ecosystems. Whilst our results may potentially cause us concern for the long-term future of Arctic ecosystems, we hope that the information we collect will help us better manage and protect these fragile ecosystems in a rapidly changing climate”.
These projects, along with two others have been awarded a share of £10M and will begin in February 2017, lasting a duration of four years. The wider NERC ‘Changing Arctic Ocean’ programme has £16M funding in total.