Plenary sessions

During the plenary session, presentations will be given by each of the 8 sessions chairs, on their session topics. In addition, transdisciplinary presentations will also be presented by invited speakers (see below).

Plenary presentations on session topics

Angelika Renner (chair session 1)
Institute of Marine Research, Tromsø, Norway

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean - the challenge of observing basic properties and assessing changes
Over the past 30 years, we have seen a decline of the Arctic sea ice cover happening at a rate unprecedented in the last ~1500 years. This decline is most notable and most easily observed in sea ice extent, through pan-Arctic satellite observations since the 1970s and from proxies before that. However, other sea ice properties are more difficult to assess over longer time and larger spatial scales. Given the increasing interest in the Arctic for example regarding exploitation of natural resources and shipping, we have to improve our knowledge of the current state and ongoing changes as well as our understand of the physical drivers behind these changes. In this talk, I will focus on sea ice thickness: why is measuring ice thickness so difficult? What records do we have and what do we know? What are the challenges, and what could (should?) be the way forward? In the last few years, an increasing number of different studies looked at sea ice thickness in the Arctic, however, they were often limited to particular regions, periods of time, and methods of measurements. To make full use of the different measurements, we need to develop a way to combine these observations into a consistent dataset.

Angelika Renner is a physical oceanographer and sea ice physicist at the Institute of Marine Research in Tromsø, Norway. She holds a Diploma in Marine Environmental Sciences from the Carl-von-Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany and received her PhD from the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey in the UK. This was followed by a postdoctoral position at the Norwegian Polar Institute. In her research, Angelika focusses on small-scale processes in the sea ice-ocean boundary layer and effects on the large-scale distribution of sea ice thickness in the Arctic. While her work is based on observations obtained in the field, she has a strong interest in the challenges of integrating those observations in the development of satellite remote sensing products and the improvement of sea ice and ocean models.

Finlo Cottier (chair session 2)
The Scottish Association for Marine Science

Oceanographic Challenges from an Arctic Scavenger 
In ecology, organisms are usually termed ‘specialists’ or ‘scavengers’, depending on how specific their diets are. Each has their strengths and the community needs both. The same is true in science, except that we tend to use the term “cross-disciplinary” instead of ‘scavenger’ – it sounds better! In this presentation I’ll give some examples of specialist research in Arctic oceanography discussing the associated advances and challenges. I’ll also give examples of where a scientific scavenger can thrive and the excitement of working in a cross-disciplinary manner. In such a relatively poorly understood environment that is experiencing rather rapid change there is a need for both specialists and scavengers. To detect change and understand the processes impacted by that change, the use of long time series or proxies is essential. The focus of the talk will be on oceanographic processes, often recorded in long term observations, but will demonstrate the close linkage between the physical environment and other disciplines.

Finlo Cottier is primarily a physical oceanographer but has a broad interest in many Arctic marine processes. He undertook his PhD at the Scott Polar Research Institute at University of Cambridge, researching the properties of sea ice using large ice tanks. This was then followed by a period as a naturalist guide on polar cruise ships, learning the art of answering all sorts of questions from curious people. In his professional life he has only ever worked at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), in Oban, west Scotland.  Here he was a post-doctoral researcher in physical oceanography and over the years this developed into a greater emphasis on Arctic research. He enjoyed very productive collaboration with Norwegian groups in particular and has worked on a variety of Arctic research topics from oceanography, sea ice, ecology and palaeoceanography.  During his time at SAMS he promoted Arctic education including an ongoing Bachelor degree program in “Marine Science with Arctic Studies” for over 5 years. Finlo Cottier is currently the head of the Physics and Technology Department at SAMS.

Bodil A Bluhm (chair session 4)
University of Tromsø, Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, Tromsø, Norway &
University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
Archambault P (Université du Quebec à Rimouski, Québec, Canada)
Dunton KH (University of Texas at Austin, Texas, USA)
Grebmeier JM (University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Sciences, Solomons, Maryland, USA)
Huettmann F (University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Arctic Biology, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA)
Iken K (University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA)
Norcross BL (University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA)
Piepenburg D (Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany)
Renaud PE (Akvaplan-niva, Fram Centre for Climate and the Environment, Tromsø, Norway)
Sirenko BI (Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia)

Arctic marine seafloor fauna in a time of environmental change: biodiversity, community distribution and food webs on regional to pan-Arctic scales
On Arctic shelves, benthic communities often receive a larger fraction of water column production that falls to the seabed than at lower latitudes because of comparatively low pelagic grazing pressure. As a result, Arctic benthos provides important ecosystem services including carbon and nutrient cycling, prey base for marine mammals, and providing long-term records of climate variability and change as recorded by a long-lived fauna. We provide examples of spatial patterns in benthic seascapes from recent regional and pan-Arctic syntheses. Spatial distribution of benthic biomass, invertebrate assemblages, and biodiversity are determined through a combination of water mass characteristics, advective transport of food and larvae, biogeographical history, bathymetry, and sediment characteristics. Biogeographical affinities on shelves reflect their proximity to sub-Arctic regions, while deep-sea basins are more connected to the recent North Atlantic fauna.  Regional differences in Arctic deep-sea communities are only moderate despite prominent trans-Arctic ridges that could act as dispersal barriers.  Stable isotope analysis indicates that food webs are primarily based on phytoplankton and sea-ice algae, but terrestrial sources and microphytobenthos can also play a role in coastal regions. Climate models of water temperatures in combination with known species thermal tolerance windows predict that warming bottom temperatures are likely to particularly change distributions of boreal and Arctic organisms on inflow shelves and in shallow waters, but could also have visible effects in seabed habitats of >500 m. Observing networks have been established to track these biological changes in some areas.

Bodil Bluhm got her Master’s degree in Zoology and Biological Oceanography at the University of Kiel (1997, Germany) and her PhD in Marine Biology at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research/University of Bremen (2000, Germany) working on population dynamics and aging of Arctic and Antarctic invertebrates, respectively. She has subsequently spent the last 13 years working in the Pacific Arctic as a Research Faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and recently began a position as Professor at the University of Tromsø in Norway. Her interests are focused around community ecology, biodiversity and population dynamics of Arctic benthic and sea ice-associated fauna as well as on coupling processes between the benthic, pelagic and sea ice realms through carbon flux and trophic interactions.  She believes in pan-Arctic and interdisciplinary integration and communication.

Katharine Hendry
(chair session 5)
University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
Co-author: Jennifer Pike (Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Paleo-reconstruction and biological archives: decade to millennium
Arctic sea-ice plays several key roles in global climate, from increasing the density of seawater through brine rejection, contributing to deep water formation, to influencing gas and heat exchange, releasing nutrients and increasing planetary albedo.  With rising concern about changing sea-ice duration and extent in the near future, it’s imperative that we understand how the climate system can change, by how much, and how quickly.  Palaeoclimate studies can give us a window into the sensitivity of the ocean and climate system to change.  Here, I will give a brief overview of the key components of a changing Arctic system that we need to reconstruct and – ideally – combine with models in order to understand how Arctic changes will influence climate in the future.  I will then discuss some of the palaeoclimate tools and archives that we have to use, and their limitations, before discussing what the archives show us about the Arctic in a changing world –and its contribution to global climate change - over decades, to millennia, and longer timescales.

Kate Hendry is currently a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Bristol. Her interests lie in the development of new geochemical tools to investigate the biological response to changes in climate and ocean circulation in modern and past oceans, in particular the polar regions. She is at the forefront of research into silicon isotopes in seawater and biogenic opal, used to reconstruct nutrient cycling in seawater.

Mikhail Grigoriev (chair session 6)
Melnikov Permafrost Institute, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Yakutsk, Russia

Coastal and Subsea Permafrost of the Siberian Arctic: Dynamics, Evolution and Risk
The coastal-shelf zone of the Arctic Seas is a place of dynamic interaction of the atmosphere, sea and permafrost. This zone of the Siberian Seas is known for active dynamics of erosive processes and subsea permafrost transformation.

Shore dynamics directly reflecting the complicated land-ocean interactions plays an important role in the balance of sediments, organic carbon and nutrients in the Arctic basin. Thermal abrasion is the most important destructive phenomenon in coastal retreat in this area. The Laptev and East Siberian coasts consist mainly of different types of Quaternary sediments including ice-rich deposits, which are characterized by extremely high ice contents, fine-grained texture, rapid coastal retreat (1 to 20 m/yr), and high concentrations of organic matter. Long-term  observations of coastal erosion  on the key sites with ice-rich shores show that the coastal retreat rates within the study area have significantly increased (1.5-2 times ) between  2000 and  2014. Among others the Laptev and East-Siberian Seas are of greatest interest. Due to erosion of their coasts a large volume of sediment and organic carbon is supplied to the sea. Based on the estimates of coastal sediment input and on the average organic carbon concentrations of the coastal sections, the total organic carbon supplied to the Laptev and East Siberian Seas by coastal erosion can be quantified as ca. 4 x 106 t/yr. Other European, Asian and American Arctic Seas are characterized by considerably lower coastal retreat rates, as well as lower sediment and organic input. The organic carbon, which originates from eroded coastal permafrost deposits, might be an important agent of increasing the greenhouse gas flux to the atmosphere.

Subsea permafrost is still poorly understood, due mainly to the lack of direct observations. Studies of permafrost evolution in the coastal zone allow us to better understand the on-shore/off-shore permafrost system evolution. Coastal and offshore drilling studies in the Laptev and East Siberian Seas confirm the existence of frozen sediments on the shelf. On the basis of geocryological, thermal, and pore water/ice salinity data, it is possible to understand the evolution of subsea permafrost during and after sea level rise. An average sub-sea permafrost table inclination in the near-shore zone at the key sites of the Laptev and East Siberian Seas is about 0.011 (0.002-0.038). New formations of sub-sea permafrost are available within the shallows surrounding delta areas and shallow accumulative bays, on conditions that a water depth is less then 2.5m. One of the main indicators of sub-sea permafrost table inclination at the eroded coastal segments is a coastal retreat rate. Peculiarities of evolution of upper layers of sub-sea permafrost depend on a number of factors: near-bottom water temperature, water salinity; coastal erosion retreat rates (or rate of accumulation/accretion), shoreface inclination, general coastal morphology and shoreline configuration, coastal and shoreface sediment composition, ice-content of deposits, submerged bellow sea level, hydro-lithologic near-shore dynamics.

Mikhail Grigoriev is the deputy director of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute in Yakutsk, Russia. He has been working on eastern Arctic Shelf permafrost topics since 1976 and participated in 32 Russian and international expeditions to the Arctic.

Transdisciplinary presentations

Kathrin Keil
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) e.V., Postdam, Germany

Sustainability and Resources in the Arctic
This talk will give a thorough overview of the different resources existent and expected in the Arctic, focusing especially on the hopes towards developing offshore oil and gas resources on the five Arctic coastal states’ continental shelves, the increasing usage of Arctic shipping routes especially along the Northern Sea Route along Russia’s northern coast, and the expectations towards increasing fishing opportunities in so-far untapped areas of the central Arctic Ocean. The focus of analysis will be, first, on the question of how likely is it that these resources will be developed in the short- to mid-term and second on what the outlooks are for developing these resources sustainably and to the benefit of the people living in the region.

Important future directions for Arctic research in this connection include a more detailed and realistic approach towards the potential role and future of Arctic resources. What is especially needed is a broader outlook, focusing on how the Arctic generally and Arctic resources specifically are embedded in broader regional and global processes. We further need a clearer approach to sustainability and sustainable development in Arctic research. It more thoroughly needs to be clarified what are specific goals and aims (sustainability meaning specifically what in which special case or context?) and what tools and concepts are needed in order to achieve these goals (what does sustainable development have to entail in order to achieve the formulated goal? What are conflicts, trade-offs, effects of power relations involved in this process?).

Kathrin Keil
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) e.V., Postdam, Germany

Multidisciplinary Arctic Research
Given the manifold developments at play in the changing Arctic region, we also need manifold disciplines to tackle the challenges on the way towards sustainable Arctic futures. For example, natural sciences observe and model the changing nature of the Arctic sea ice, environment and atmosphere. Social sciences like law, economics and political science can provide valuable input as to the likely development of, for example, the pace and extent of Arctic resource exploration and exploitation. This data informs natural science models as to the expected amount of pollutants and black carbon from Arctic sources and thus how we can expect Arctic air pollution to develop, the role of black carbon for the future development of Arctic sea ice, and the possibility of long-range transport of pollutants between Arctic and non-Arctic regions. It further provides data as to the possible and likely effects on Arctic societies and cultures. Multidisciplinary research work is also indispensable to disclose the ever-tightening connections between Arctic and non-Arctic actors, processes, systems and stake- and rights-holders. The involvement of more and more non-Arctic actors in Arctic governance on the one hand provides insights in the possible investments and social development of the region. On the other hand, it discloses the delicate relationship between opportunities and responsibilities that non-Arctic actors have in relation to Arctic changes.

While multidisciplinary research is indeed indispensable to achieve advances in Arctic research, this should not be understood as replacing disciplinary research. State-of-the-art research from all disciplines is of course still invaluable and very often forms the very basis for fruitful multidisciplinary research or synergies between separate disciplines.

Kathrin Keil is a Project Scientist at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany where she co-leads the SMART Project (Sustainable Modes of Arctic Resource-driven Transformations). She is also the Europe Director of The Arctic Institute, an interdisciplinary, independent think tank focusing on Arctic policy issues. Kathrin received her Dr. phil. from the Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin Graduate School for Transnational Studies. Further, Kathrin has participated in meetings of the Arctic Council Task Force on Black Carbon and Methane as part of the official German observer delegation to the Arctic Council. Kathrin has a Master of Science (Two Years) in European Affairs from Lunds Universitet in Sweden, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the Technische Universität Dresden. Kathrin’s research work and publications focus on the stakes in Arctic resources, Arctic governance, feedback loops and interdependencies between Arctic and non-Arctic regions, and finding pathways for sustainable Arctic futures together with Arctic stake- and rights-holders.

Jørgen Berge
UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Department for Arctic and Marine Biology, Tromsø, Norway & University Centre on Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Norway

In the dark: paradigms of Arctic ecosystems during polar night challenged by new understanding
Several recent lines of evidence indicate that the polar night is key to understanding Arctic marine ecosystems. First, the polar night is not a period void of biological activity even though primary production is close to zero, but is rather characterized by a number of processes and interactions yet to be fully understood, including unanticipated high levels of feeding and reproduction in a wide range of taxa and habitats. Second, as more knowledge emerges, it is evident that a coupled physical and biological perspective of the ecosystem will redefine seasonality beyond the “calendar perspective”. Third, it appears that many organisms may exhibit endogenous rhythms that trigger fitness-maximizing activities in the absence of light-based cues. Indeed a common adaptation appears to be the ability to utilize the dark season for reproduction. This and other processes are most likely adaptations to current environmental conditions and community and trophic structures of the ecosystem, and may have implications for how Arctic ecosystems can change under continued climatic warming.

Jean-Pierre Beurier
Maritime and Oceanic Law Centre, University of Nantes, France

What is the legal regime for the Arctic Ocean?
The legal regime of the Arctic Ocean has long been blurred because of the lack of an apparent human presence. However, the residents developed land claims as the sector’s theory advanced by Canada or the USSR, or the application of international law in the USA and Norway. Most of the maritime space remained, however, without any real legal system. The scarce cases of navigation in the North West and North East passages have still led to a reaction from the riparian states, Canada and the USSR who were not willing to recognize a right of free passage along their coasts. The low exploitation of living and non-living resources was led by the citizens of the riparian states and did not result in the building of rules of international law. Since 1970, the most directly concerned states have begun to develop rules limiting the use and protecting the environment. The partial melting of ice in the summer due to global warming will change this timid approach. Since 2000, the passages are regularly used. Not only riparian and those states most directly concerned (United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark) intend to develop the exploitation of natural resources. All riparian reject the idea of an internationalization of the Arctic Ocean and consider it as exclusively submitted to their emerging and still hesitant legal framework. The chosen legal regime will be the one desired by riparians although observers (mainly European) are admitted to the Arctic Council. The protection of this fragile and already damaged area represents a real international issue. Under these circumstances, would it be possible to consider a response of the international law? In November 2014, the International Maritime Organization will adopt a "Polar Code" which intends the enforcement of specific rules to ships and shipping. Regarding the exploitation of resources and the protection of the environment it seems essential to find an international framework which would satisfy the interests of both the riparian countries and the environment. Therefore it is hoped that a “regional seas” agreement would emerge between riparian which could associate observer countries  as well.

Jean-Pierre Beurier is a Professor of Public Law at the University of Nantes, France and holds a PhD and Habilitation in international environmental law. He has been also working as a Professor at the Université de Bretagne Occidentale (Brest) and at the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane. He is the former Director of various research centres on the law of the sea and maritime law and of the European Institute for Marine Studies in Brest. Also, he founded the Sea and Coast Research and Development Centre in Nantes and has been an United Nations consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).





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