Report on the adaptation actions for a changing Arctic in the Barents Area

26.4.2017 15:15

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) has released the Barents Area assessment report, a result of four years of research towards understanding the adaptive capacity of the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Russian Arctic.

The Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA) report carefully documents environmental, climatic and social information to highlights the interactions between them. This knowledge supports and informs decision makers, communities and businesses, helping people adapt to the inevitability of the warming climate. The Barents Area Report, one of three requested by the Arctic Council, proposes how best to meet these changes with efficient adaptation.

Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland is one of the partners in the AMAP programme and co-writers in the report.

Change and arctic opportunities

Change is coming to the Arctic, and communities must adapt. Both opportunities, fisheries and shipping routes opening, and challenges, extreme weather, are some key challenges to adaptation.

• The Gulf Stream makes Barents one of the warmest Arctic areas and the Barents Sea will be the first Arctic region to be free of sea ice year around.
• Retreating sea ice edges are opening new grounds for trawling and transport routes while impacting fish and animals dependent on sea ice.
• Rainfall, flooding, avalanches and landslides will increase.

Expected change

The Barents Sea covers almost million and a half square kilometers of water has an important role for the atmosphere and the movement of ocean currents. Global warming in the Arctic occurs more than double than the rest of the world and research has projected the Barents Sea will be the first year round ice-free region.

As the Barents Sea opens, cooperation is essential. Fisheries rely on international cooperation and agreements for success when fish stocks migrate to new waters and new fish stocks appear because of increased ocean temperatures. Some fish species (e.g. Atlantic cod and haddock) will shift northwards due to climate change, while Arctic species will retreat and decrease. Animals who need sea ice will loose their habitat while open water animals, like baleen whales may benefit from the warming.

The open water will also change the weather, causing heavier rainfall. On the open sea, extreme wave heights and storms of over 100 km long could result. However, polar lows should decrease in the future.

More rain will fall in winter. On land, the rain will fall on snow, causing natural hazards. Landslides and avalanches will increase and flooding will become more frequent and heavier. The rain on snow will freeze in layers, making it difficult for reindeer to reach their food through ice. As a result, more reindeer will die, impacting the people who depend on them.
The warmer temperature will continue to melt the frozen ground, permafrost, causing damage to infrastructure. Economic demand also becomes part of the picture - without it, there is no way to reap the benefits of additional ocean and land advantages.

Adaptation foundations and processes

Beyond natural factors, global, social, economic, political and cultural changes also directly affect adaptability. A complex web of issues from nature, economics and government directly affect local communities. "Using these resources means great responsibility for safeguarding local and indigenous communities." Dr. Grete Hovelsrud, Nord University, Bodø.

From the many people in the Arctic, Indigenous communities face a greater range of challenges including loss of identity, language, traditional food culture, and land. Beyond global warming there are everyday issues of poor economy and challenges of working with the mainstream authorities. By addressing these issues now, policy makers could avoid worsening them in the future.

More information:

AACA report

Research Professor Monica Tennberg
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, +358 040 019 2005

Social Anthropologist Grete Hovelsrud
Nord University, Bodø, Norway, +47 95 80 60 46

Senior Researcher Annika E. Nilsson
Stockholm Environment Institute +46 73707 8541

AACA Barents co-chair Marianne Kroglund
Norwegian Environment Agency, tel: +47 48005055