Research Foci

The Nansen Legacy organization
The Nansen Legacy organization. The Research Foci (RF1-4) represents “what” science the Nansen Legacy is investigating, and the Research Activities “how” (A-C), including impact and legacy in the public domain (D).

RF1 Physical drivers

The Barents Sea is a significant gateway with inflow of Atlantic Water from the south and Arctic Water from the rapidly changing Arctic Ocean. A firm understanding of the physical climate system in this region is a fundamental building block for sustainable management, and prognostic models for the Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic.

Hypothesis: The state and variability of the Barents Sea is set by a competition between cold Arctic Water, and warm Atlantic water, modulated by variability in sea ice cover and atmospheric forcing.

The Physical Drivers work package will investigate how the northern Barents Sea is influenced by these transports, and how local physical processes redistribute and modify the forcing from adjacent areas. Thus, improving the understanding of variability from past climatic periods to time scales of hours for selected key processes.

The work package is a fundamental part of the Nansen Legacy since a thorough understanding of the physical control on transports and redistribution of energy and matter is needed to understand the environmental conditions for the present ecosystem as well as distribution of pollutants and ocean acidification.

Trying to understand and model the ecosystem development or future climate without understanding the basic physical controls can be compared to driving a car without knowing how the steering, throttle, and brakes function; even if you had  a good overview of the road ahead you wouldn’t know at what speed and in what direction your car would move.

RF2 Human impacts

Arctic areas are exposed to climate change as well as other human influences, such as ocean acidification, pollution and commercial fisheries.

Hypothesis: The multiple pressures of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and fisheries will jointly and non-additively influence the ecosystem of the northern Barents Sea and the adjacent slope to the Arctic Basin.

This work package investigates human impacts on the ecosystems in the northern Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Ocean. Global warming leads to retreat of sea ice; hence these areas are becoming increasingly accessible to human activities such as fishing, shipping, tourism and petroleum exploration. The Nansen Legacy will provide knowledge for precautionary management of these expanding activities, by investigating effects of pollutants and fishing on the changing arctic ecosystems. Furthermore, the Nansen Legacy will investigate ocean acidification in the Arctic – which is important for anticipating changes in marine life regionally as well as for carbon cycling globally. These investigations will be performed by combining observations from field surveys with experiments and integrating insights by use of state-of-the art models.

RF3 The living Barents Sea

Biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and environmental forcing are inherently and intricately linked in any ecosystem, with their relationships shaped by region, habitat and temporal dynamic.

Hypothesis: The ecosystems of the northern (Arctic-influenced) Barents Sea and adjacent slope and basin areas function fundamentally differently from the much better understood southern (Atlantic-influenced) region.

We explore the status and changes in the marine ecosystem in the central and northern Barents Sea and adjacent areas, focusing on;

    • Who is in the north and how do they relate to environmental conditions?’
    • When are they there and active?
    • How much do they produce per year?
    • How does carbon cycle in the food web?

This Research Foci is an important element of the Nansen Legacy as it provides the scientific knowledge base required for the sustainable management of the marine resources of the northern Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Basin.

RF4 The future Barents Sea

The sustainable management of resources and environment is fundamentally about foresight. It depends critically on our capacity to observe, understand and eventually predict the transitions between past, present and future states of weather, climate, and the marine ecosystem.

Hypothesis: There is a substantial practical potential for the prognostic qualification of the physical environment and ecosystem of the Barents Sea and neighboring Arctic from days to decades into the future.

When considering the coupled physical-biological system, this work package addresses the fundamental question under which conditions and to what extent change in the climate system translates into distinguishable response in the ecosystem.

The novelty of the Nansen Legacy approach lies in how the combination of model approaches e.g., of process-based and non-deterministic models constitute a framework for the projection of ecosystem states into the future.

(Photo: Rudi Caeyers