The Barents Sea Polar Front Study 2021 – student immersion into cutting edge science

Written by Professor Rolf Gradinger, Department of Arctic and marine biology.

Barents Sea ecosystems supports one of the most economically valuable fisheries on Earth. But the high latitudes are changing drastically with the climate changes. It is uncertain if and how the future Barents Sea will function in the future. Will food web interactions change and current species disappear and be replaced by other taxa? This challenging question is the major focus of the Norwegian Arven etter Nansen project supported by other ongoing research.

In May 2021, the research and education network ARCTOS teamed up with Arven etter Nansen to investigate the biology in the dynamic frontal zone between Arctic and North Atlantic water masses in the so-called Polar Front region east of Svalbard. During the 11-day long expedition onboard Helmer Hansen (a UiT research vessel), we did not only conduct cutting edge research but also provided a framework for education of early career scientists as part of the UiT course BIO-8510.

Study area and station map of the ARCTOS-AeN Polar Front study (ARCTOS).

The expedition crossed the Polar Front twice and collected samples. We wanted to explore and understand the distribution patterns and activity of plankton, fish, seafloor living creatures, marine mammals, and relate these patterns and their activities to how this frontal zone was structured. Was it just a boundary, separating Arctic from Atlantic domains and species? Or does it have unique dynamics leading to e.g., enhanced food availabilities to sea birds and marine mammals creating an oasis in the desert?

In addition to the use of traditional sampling devices , we used innovative new tools. These new tools were two gliders and two sailbuoys (sponsored by Equinor) and fast repetition rate fluorometers. They provide insights into both the small-scale distributions and physiology and broad-scale distributions of marine organisms which is not possible to be assessed with normal ship-board instruments. Sea ice limited our ability to trawl and use gliders in the northern part of the Polar Front, but provided us with a short insight into the life of two polar bears. The crew of Helmer Hanssen provided us with outstanding support to our many wishes, not minding the frequent adjustments of the scientific program.

Our first results show that we sampled a well-developed frontal system with clear separation of Arctic and Atlantic water, combined different community patterns on all trophic levels. We also encountered an exceptionally strong microalgal spring bloom, dominated by millions of diatom microalgae in the water column. Further conclusions must wait now for the data analyses which are currently conducted and will be summarized at the upcoming AeN annual meeting, and a dedicated Polar Front workshop end of this year.

Examples of microalgal species encountered during the expedition (R. Gradinger).

The PhD level teaching component (BIO-8510), organized through ARCTOS and UiT, attracted 15 early career scientists from Norwegian, UK and US universities. They had widely ranging interests, from remote sensing, ocean physics to marine mammal acoustics. All students participated in research programs, whether it was algal activity measurements or the study of benthic macrofauna. Participating senior researchers came from Akvaplan-niva, NINA, and UiT. This experience provided the students with a unique training in Arctic Systems Science, a holistic view looking at interconnections between different components of the living and non-living parts of the Barents Sea. Without the excellent student engagement, their energy and commitment, this expedition would not have been able to achieve the broad scientific success that we had. Although the course has officially ended, the participating students have been invited to be involved in future sample analyses, data processing and manuscript writing.

Students analysing zooplankton samples (R. Gradinger).

The cruise participant nationalities included Brazil, Canada, China, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Iran, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Switzerland, UK, and USA. The combination of home institutions and diversity of nationalities allowed all participants to further build their networks of scientific connections and culture experiences – both important attributes for successful career and personal growth.

Celebrating May 17, 2021 onboard Helmer Hanssen (ARCTOS).

To make reasonable predictions is a task given rightfully to us scientists from the public. Such predictions can only be as good as the data that are used to develop them. Only field-going research like this AeN and ARCTOS partnership can solve the puzzle how the future Barents Sea will work, and if it will continue to sustain one of the most economically important fisheries on Earth. Therefore, information from our cruise is critical as the Barents Sea is a sea in change, driven by multiple human stressors. This research will continue as we in an ARCTOS consortium were just awarded funding from the Norwegian Research Council (in cooperation with Equinor and Conoco Philips) to continue our Polar Front research through further seasonal research cruises and extended science missions with May 2022 as next targeted time window, again together with BIO-8510.

Further reading:

En reise til det kjente ukjente.

Livet på havbunnen.

Fyrstehandserfaring om bord FF Helmer Hanssen.

Der det varme Atlanterhavsvannet møter Arktisk kulde.

ARCTOS-Nansen Legacy Polar Front cruise.

Where the Atlantic heat meets the Arctic Cold.

Departure into the known unknown.

First experience onboard the RV “Helmer Hanssen”.

Life at the seabed: studying bottom-dwelling fish and invertebrates across the polar front.

Uncovering the hidden link in glacier melting

Written by Euan Paterson, Communications and Media Officer at The Scottish Association for Marine Science. First published here.

The team will examine fresh water flow from the Kronebreen glacier. Photo: SAMS.

Marine scientists will today (Friday) deploy robotic vehicles on a dangerous mission to the face of a glacier in Svalbard as they attempt to expose the hidden link in how rapidly melting Arctic ice is changing our ocean.

The mission to Ny Ålesund, the world’s most northerly settlement, is a collaboration between the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), UiT The Arctic University of Norway, the Norwegian Polar Institute and University Centre on Svalbard. The team will examine the Kronebreen glacier in Kongsfjorden, measuring the freshwater run-off as it melts, and assessing how it interacts with the saltier sea water coming into the fjord from the North Atlantic.

Humans are unable to sample at the glacier face because of the risk of huge chunks of ice collapsing into the sea below, a process known as glacier calving.

Instead, the team will use an autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) built by Norwegian company Maritime Robotics, to record various oceanographic measurements at the face of the glacier, while an autonomous underwater vehicle, known as an ecoSUB, will take temperature, salinity and oxygen readings below the surface. Meanwhile, aerial drones will survey the so-called freshwater ‘plumes’ that run off from the glacier.

Lead scientist Prof Finlo Cottier of SAMS said: “Fjords are the connection between the changing ocean and our rapidly melting northern glaciers. The transfer of heat and water at these points, often just a few kilometres wide, are therefore extremely important in understanding how climate change is impacting our ocean.

“However, as these areas are too dangerous to survey fully and too small to be picked up on global ocean models, the interactions between fjords and glaciers have not been sufficiently represented in ocean and climate predictions.

“We need to know much more about the fresh water coming into the ocean: How much is there? Where does it end up? How does it move?

“It would simply be too dangerous to go into such a hostile and remote environment with a boat. Not only is there a risk of falling ice, but large-scale calving causes huge waves, so it is a dangerous place. That is where the robotic systems come into their own, working at the front line of Arctic science.”

While rising global temperatures increase glacial melt, glaciers are also breaking up below the surface of the water. In a process known as sub-glacial discharge, melt water flows down through the glacier and out into the ocean. This water is fresher than the surrounding sea water, so starts to rise in the water column, creating a plume that pulls in warmer Atlantic water which increases the melt rate at the face of the glacier. This process undermines the wall of ice, causing huge chunks to collapse into the sea.

The marine robotics deployed by the team will collect crucial data to improve our understanding of this process.

Dr. Emily Venables will pilot the ASV during the mission. Photo: UiT The Arctic University of Norway

The project is funded through the Norwegian research centre, The Fram Centre, under the Coasts and Fjords flagship programme.

BREATHE skal finne ut hvordan det vil gå med havisalgene i fremtiden

Et nytt prosjekt, BREATHE, skal forske på havisalger i Arktis. Havisalgene er viktige i det marine miljøet. Men vi vet for lite om hvordan de lever i isen og hvordan de påvirkes av klimaendringene. Da er det vanskelig å spå hva som vil skje med dem og de som er avhengige av dem. BREATHE vil forske sånn at vi får bedre modeller for hva som vil skje med havisalgene i fremtiden.

Havisalger lever i isen i de polare områdene. Foto: Karley Campbell

Havisalger er alger som lever i isen rundt polene. De er en viktig del av næringskjeden fordi de er mange og fordi de har fotosyntese. Fotosyntese får dem til å fange CO2 og bruke den til å lage oksygen og mat til andre, det kalles primærproduksjon. Havisalger slipper også ut CO2 og bruker O2 gjennom det som heter respirasjon. Reparasjonsprosessen i algene vet vi ikke noe om enda. Primærproduksjonen og respirasjon går opp eller ned med variasjoner i lys og næring. Det betyr at gassene og maten som algene gir til miljøet endrer områdene der de lever. BREATHE-prosjektet vil finne ut hvordan. Endringene i hva algene gjør og tilgang til næring er ikke godt representert i modeller som kan brukes til å forutsi fremtiden for havisalger. BREATHE vil lage bedre modeller for å forutsi hva som skjer med havisen. De bedre modellene vil ta med algenes tilgang til næring og respirasjonsprosessen. I fremtiden kan vi bedre vite hva som skjer med havisenes alger, gassene de produserer og helsen til polare marine miljøer når det er endringer i klima og miljø.

En havisalge. Foto: Karley Campbell

Prosjektet har fått 8 millioner kroner fra Forskningsrådet og vil pågå frem til 2025. Partnerne i prosjektet er UiT, Polarinstituttet, universitetet i Aarhus, GINR på Grønland, universitetet i Manitoba og universitetet i Calgary.

MOSAiC: An inside look at the largest Arctic expedition in history

Written by postdoctoral fellow Jessie Gardner, AMB.

MOSAiC was the largest ever expedition to the Arctic, with one purpose: to improve our understanding of climate change.Dr Jessie Gardner, from the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology (UiT), was on board during the summer and shares her insights from this exceptional scientific campaign.

Unravelling the mysteries of the Central Arctic Ocean

In 2019 the German research icebreaker, Polarstern, set sail from Tromsø bound for the Central Arctic Ocean, the epicentre of climate change. Once there, the ship allowed itself to become trapped in the ice for a year, drifting alongside an ice floe with the speed and direction of the winds and currents alone. The idea follows that of the Norwegian researcher and explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who set sail on the first ever drift expedition with his wooden sailing ship Fram 127 years ago. The Polarstern was laden with state-of-the-art scientific equipment. Throughout the year, 442 experts from 70 institutions in 20 different countries took part in the field campaign, which was supported by six other ships, several aircraft and hundreds of others on land.

The Polarstern reached the northern Laptev Sea by mid-October 2019, located a suitable ice floe and set up a small floating city of scientific instruments in time for the polar night. With temperatures plummeting to -42°C and fierce winds transforming the ice around them, researchers battled to sample the floe in the darkness. Ultimately, they succeeded, giving us a rare glimpse into the central Arctic Ocean environment during the winter while the sea ice thickened beneath their feet.

The Russian icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn alongside the Polarstern during the wintertime in the central Arctic Ocean. Photo: Esther Horvath.

Research expeditions into the central Arctic Ocean have traditionally be fraught with problems and MOSAiC was no exception. Some of them were predictable and had been considered during the decade of planning, such as the Russian icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn being much delayed by the strength of the winter ice pack. Other issues were completely unforeseen, like the declaration of a pandemic around the world- just as the spring rotation of participants, crew and re-supplies was planned.

It was this rotation that I was scheduled to be part of part of “Team ECO” and the HAVOC project (Ridges – Safe HAVens for ice-associated Flora and Fauna in a Seasonally ice-covered Arctic Ocean). HAVOC is the largest Norwegian project to participate in MOSAiC, led by the Norwegian Polar Institute and funded by the Research Council of Norway. HAVOC aims to investigate sea ice ridges and their role in the Arctic sea-ice system. However, there were moments where it seemed like the MOSAiC field campaign might have been abandoned completely…

How to continue research during a global pandemic

The first hint of the seriousness of coronavirus came after I had attended a polar bear protection training course at the beginning of March in Germany. We were all tested for corona as a precaution, and one of the participants tested positive! I received the news while making a pit stop in the U.K. and immediately went into 2 weeks of quarantine. During those 2 weeks, coronavirus shifted from being a distant issue to a severe threat around the world. Straight after, countries went into lockdown, borders closed and plans for the Spring personnel exchange from Svalbard to the Polarstern were abandoned.

The MOSAiC coordinators, led by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), worked tirelessly to find an alternative despite airports, military facilities and seaports worldwide shutting down. First, we gained special permission to travel to Germany, underwent testing and then quarantined in isolation for two weeks. After I boarded the research vessel Maria S Merian and spent another two weeks sailing to Svalbard, sleeping in a modified container chained to her deck. The Polarstern had to leave the camp and floe temporarily for the personnel exchange. Unfortunately, this was at the cost of capturing the crucial time when the ice begins to melt, but this is a small price to pay compared to abandoning the expedition altogether.

I could hardly believe it when we finally reached the floe. Photos of sea ice from above makes it seem like a vast expanse of white, flat nothingness but actually this landscape is a diverse and beautiful- littered with tall ice blocks, jagged ridges, leads, cracks and melt ponds which change before your eyes. Now, we could finally get stuck into the science!

Home sweet home! Extra accommodation was needed on the Maria S Merian so many of us slept in converted containers chained to the deck. Photo: Jessie Gardner.

Going with the “floe”

Team ECO collected thousands of samples and measured a diverse suite of ecological and biogeochemical properties from snow, ice, and seawater. With the Polarstern as our base, we built onto the time series capturing the variability of the Arctic system. The dynamic nature of the Arctic and how fast the world around you can transform was something that really struck me. There were new cracks opening and closing throughout the floe, as well as melt ponds and streams forming and draining which we would have to jump over or wade through on the way to collect the samples. These events would be accompanied with a cascade of processes and pulses of life within the associated ecosystem. We were only able to capture these through intensive sampling bouts, working on the ice for 24 hours straight, powered by copious amounts of coffee and gummy bears.

You had to be constantly vigilant, since below us was thousands of meters of seawater, and a polar bear could emerge from the sea ice rubble any time! We were lucky during our time on the floe in that we experienced long periods of calm weather with perpetual bright sunshine. Occasionally there were some very foggy days where it was too unsafe to work on the ice due to poor visibility hindering polar bear guarding.

Team ECO during Leg 4 of MOSAiC. Left to right: Celia Gelfman, Allison Fong, Jessie Gardner, Giulia Castellani, Oliver Müller, John Paul Balmonte and Katyanne Shoemaker. Photo: Lianna Nixon.

Breaking boundaries: working together for a common goal

The name MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) reflects the complexity and diversity of the science during the expedition. The MOSAiC field campaign provided an unparalleled opportunity to simultaneously observe and measure the temporal evolution of a number of co-varying Arctic climate system variables from the central Arctic atmosphere, ocean, and ice. With this mindset I was amazed how much more we were able to achieve by working together. For example, it would have been impossible to have collected the number of samples for the HAVOC project that we managed, without others volunteering their precious free time to help. Working across these disciplines and breaking down the boundaries between traditional subjects will give new perspectives on the central Arctic, and it is here that ground-breaking discoveries could be made.

Participants from 70 institutions in 20 different countries took part in the field campaign where everyone worked towards a common goal. Photo: Jessie Gardner.

The expedition has ended, but the research is only just beginning

While the field campaign has ended, MOSAiC is by no means over. Samples are now being shipped to various institutions around the world to be analysed. These, alongside the suite of measurements taken by other teams will likely take the scientific community over a decade to analyse the data collected on MOSAiC. Through virtual meetings we have kept the cross-cutting discussions alive and we already have ideas of combining data and theories in unique and exciting ways. These data and observations will be fundamental to improve our understanding of climate change, and help inform pressing political decisions on climate protection.

On its return in October 2020 the Polarstern offloaded thousands of samples which are being shipped around the world for further analysis. Photo: Jessie Gardner.


Can oil and gas companies be a driver for a clean future? A case from petroleum industry

Written by PhDstudent Tahrir Jaber, REIS research group, Handelshøgskolen ved UiT.

Reflecting the call made by the United Nation to solve our current climate challenges and reduce our carbon emissions, there is a strong need for countries to improve their environmental standards. Norway was among the first countries who welcomed Paris Agreement and ensured its commitment to the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. This made for significant changes regarding environmental policy, where renewable energy has been introduced as an alternative clean source of energy and is promoted as a climate change adaptation.


How has Equinor, a state-owned oil and gas company, adapted to meet the clean shift?

Equinor (formerly Statoil) is mostly owned by the Norwegian government who committed itself to a clean shift at all levels of society. This forced Statoil as an oil and gas company to reshape its strategy and invest heavily in clean energy activities to becoming a mixed-energy company. However, this shift is considered critical because the petroleum activities are crucial for the Norway’s economic growth and for funding the Norwegian welfare state. Also, investing in new clean activities requires Equinor to enhance its capabilities, knowledge and competences outside their boundaries.

Oil and gas companies in transition are required to include cultural and technological changes. Therefore, I found it interesting to understand why Equinor introduced new clean activities to the company and how people in Equinor accept and manage this clean shift. However, in order to answer those questions, I intended to collect my data through interviews and survey. This enabled me as a researcher to enrich the evidence and answer my questions more deeply.

The results show that Equinor’s owner (Norwegian state), top management team, board of directors and top leader play the most essential role in reshaping the company’s strategy in order to take a step towards a new clean shift. However, employees play an important role in strengthening this clean shift. This shows that employees understand the importance of the clean shift, accept it and are interested to develop new clean projects and introduce it to the management team.

Governments and policymakers play the most important role towards a sustainable future

This case shows us, first, the important role government plays in establishing environmental regulations that force companies to change and work to reduce their own carbon emissions. Second, it shed the light on the manager’s moral role in reshaping the company’s strategy by adopting new sustainable projects. Third, the Equinor case shows that its employees are invited to introduce any clean projects to the top management team. By this, employees will have a personal stake in the company and its success, create an opportunity for employees to share ideas, find that their contributions are valued and this enables them to contribute more.

To conclude, I believe that governments and policymakers play the most important role in achieving a sustainable future. Countries should commit to work towards reducing our emissions and have to take action in order to force companies and societies to achieve this goal. Therefore, it is extremely important for policymakers to establish new regulations and incentives that motivate companies to reduce their emissions and reward companies who intend to adopt clean activities.





Smågnageren er viktigere enn du tror

Skrevet av Eeva Marjatta Soininen, forskningsgruppen Northern Populations and Ecosystems

Smågnagerne er kanskje ikke de mest synlige dyrene når man går på tundraen i Nord-Norge. Men de sykliske svingningene i smågnagernes bestandstetthet utgjør pulsen i hele næringsnettet på tundraen. Smågnagerne er nemlig både viktige byttedyr og spiser mye planter. Så selv om vi ikke ser dem så ofte, så former de mye av plante- og dyrelivet rundt oss.

Norsk lemen er et spesielt viktig byttedyr for fjellrev og snøugle. Yngling av disse rovdyrartene på Varangerhalvøya er avhengig av at de har tilgang på lemen som mat (foto: Rolf. A Ims)

Alle rovdyrene på tundraen spiser smågnagere. Enkelte rovdyr, slik som fjellrev og snøugle, er spesielt avhengige av lemen. De yngler bare når det er toppår for gnagere. Andre rovdyr med mer generalisert diett, slik som rødrev og kråkefugler, yngler også mer i toppår med smågnagere. Dette systemet gjør at toppår for gnagere gir økning i bestandstettheten hos rovdyr. Det igjen gir negative ringvirkninger for andre byttedyrarter, som for eksempel rypa.

Smågnagerne har også betydning for plantelivet. I toppårene spiser smågnagerne til sammen store mengder planter. Det påvirker både plantesamfunnets biomasse og artssammensetning. Vi kan godt si at smågnagere vedlikeholder sine habitat. Både mose og dvergbusker på heiene hadde sett nokså annerledes ut uten gnagertopper.

Hva gjør klimaendringene med dette systemet?

Vi forventer varmere og våtere vintre som følge av klimaendringene. Mildværsperioder med regn om vinteren fører til at snøen smelter og fryser flere ganger. Dermed dannes islag i snødekket. Islag begrenser spesielt gnagernes tilgang til mat under snøen. Dette vil igjen kunne resultere i færre og sjeldnere gangertoppår. Så hva skjer med gnagerne når klimaet forandrer seg? Og hvordan påvirker forandringer i gnagersykluser resten av økosystemet?

Kameraene er plassert i metallkasser som har hull i begge ender. På denne måten er kameraboksen integrert som en del av gnagernes naturlige habitat. Kameraet sitter i taket og ser nedover, og tar bilde av alle dyr som passerer under (foto: Mike Murphy)

For å svare på disse spørsmålene, har vi utviklet et system for kameraovervåking av smågnagere. Arbeidet gjøres i regi av prosjektet Klimaøkologisk Observasjonssystem for Arktisk Tundra (COAT). I prosjektet har vi en egen forskningsmodul med fokus på gnagere.

Vi antar at klimaforandringene hovedsakelig påvirker gnagere via endringer i vinterklimaet. Det gjør det spesielt viktig å forstå hva som skjer under snøen. Nye typer viltkamera gjør det mulig å overvåke både røyskatt og snømus året rundt – også under snøen. Kameraene tar bilder av gnagere og rovdyr som er spesialisert på å spise dem.

Røyskatt med lemenbytte

Bildene gir oss mulighet til å observere dynamikken mellom rovdyr og gnagere, for eksempel å skille nedgang i gnagerbestand som skyldes predasjon fra nedgang som skyldes vanskelige snøforhold. I tillegg registrerer kameraene temperatur, som brukes til å beregne når gnagerne har vært under snøen.

Informasjon om snøforholdene brukes for å modellere effekten av snø på populasjonsdynamikk av gnagere.

Informasjon om smågnagernes bestandstetthet er viktig for en optimal forvaltning av utrydningstruede dyr, som for eksempel fjellreven. Smågnager-syklusene har en indirekte effekt på småvilt, som rypa. Informasjon om smågnagere kan hjelpe å forutsi småviltbestandens utvikling og dermed forvaltningen av småvilt.

Parallelt med utsetting av kamera og innsamling av bilder, har vi også jobbet med automatisering, optimalisering og modellering av bildene. Noen av bildene kan du se her.

I noen lokaliteter er det flere dyr som ofte kommer innom kamera. Her en røyskattfamilie, der tre ungdyr gjentatte ganger var på bildene.


Kan vi sette en pris på føling i fjæra?

Tekst av Margrethe Aanesen, Norges fiskerihøgskole, MarES – Changing use and values of marine ecosystem services in Arctic Norway

Mange land, deriblant Norge, har sluttet seg til ideen om “blå vekst”. Det betyr at mye av den økonomiske veksten i årene framover skal komme i marine og maritime næringer. I utgangspunktet er dette godt nytt for et institutt som er dedikert til marine næringer. Forskere ved Norges fiskerihøgskole jobber ikke bare med marin næringsutvikling, men også potensielle konsekvenser av vekst i de blå næringene. Det har vi gjort lenge før “blå vekst” strategien ble unnfanget.

I Nord-Norge har det kommet mange planer for økt næringsaktivitet i kystsonen. Kommunene Balsfjord, Karlsøy, Lyngen, Målselv og Tromsø har vedtatt en felles kystplan for Tromsøregionen.

Oppdrettsanlegg (foto: Andrey Armyagov)

Noen kaller planen en «oppdrettsplan» fordi den foreslår en betydelig økning i areal avsatt til oppdrett av laks i området. I tillegg til vekstplaner for oppdrett i kystsonen, så har det, i alle fall før korona, blitt etablert nye fisketurismeanlegg langs kysten i nord. Det skjer til tross for at mange norske fritidsfiskere stiller spørsmålstegn ved det de mener er sløsing med fisk i turistfiske. Og så har vi fjordene våre, hvor det i noen tilfeller åpnes opp for sjødeponi. Hva betyr så alt dette?

Næringsutvikling basert på bruk av naturressurser må ikke bare være økologisk bærekraftig, den må også være sosialt bærekraftig. Med sosial bærekraft mener vi at befolkningen som bor i områdene aksepterer utviklingen. Det betyr også at det er mer lønnsomt for samfunnet at næringsaktører får en eksklusiv tilgang til våre felles marine ressurser, enn at de er allment tilgjengelig.

(foto: Julide Ceren Ahi)

For det er ikke slik at dersom oppdrettsselskap, fisketuristanlegg eller gruveselskap ikke får bruke ressursene og tjenestene som havet gir, så er det ingen som bruker dem. De ressursene som «blå vekst» strategien gir næringsaktører tilgang til, har alle en såkalt alternativ-averdi. Det betyr den velferden eller nytten ressursene gir hvis de er allment tilgjengelige og ikke brukes til næringsvirksomhet. Problemet er at mens næringsaktører kan operere med priser på det de bruker ressursene til, så kan den allmenne bruken av de marine ressursene oftest ikke måles i penger. For hva er markedsprisen på grilling i fjæra, å hente seg koksei til et sommerkveldsmåltid, å kunne bade i sjøen, eller bare sitte og høre på den særegne stillheten i fjæra? Det er vanskelig for politikerne å ta gode beslutninger om hvordan samfunnet skal bruke våre felles marine ressurser, når noen ressurser kan måles i priser mens andre ikke kan det. Da er det lett for at de som kan måles i priser vinner. Er det i det hele tatt mulig å sette priser på «føling i fjæra»?

(foto: Katja Kircher, Mostphotos)

I MarES-prosjektet har vi undersøkt dette. Vi har utført valgeksperiment ut fra kystplanen for Tromsøregionen, planene for gjenåpning av gruvevirksomhet i Repparfjorden, og planer for vekst i turistfiske i kystsamfunn i Nord-Norge. Dagens planer for utvikling i disse næringene presenteres som ett alternativ. Og så lager vi andre alternativ der den planlagte næringsaktiviteten enten ikke finner sted, eller er redusert. – Om man velger alternativ med lav eller ingen næringsaktivitet, så må man være villig til å betale mer i skatt som kompensasjon for bortfall av inntektene og jobbene næringsaktiviteten ville gitt. I valgeksperimentet beskrives både fordelene med den planlagte næringsvirksomheten, som skatteinntekter og jobber, og ulempene, som fare for forurensing og ødeleggelse av marine økosystem. Den økte skatten som følger med de alternative planene, gjør at vi kan beregne priser på tjenester som kysten og de marine ressursene gir oss allmennbrukere.

Så hva er prisene folk setter på de «gratis» tjenestene vi nyter godt av langs kysten? Når det gjelder oppdrettsplanen, så beregnet vi hva det var verdt for folk som bor i de fem kommunene i og rundt Tromsø å få redusert antall nye lokaliteter. Det viktigste for dem var å få redusert potensiell forurensing av havbunnen. For det var hver person villig til å betale rundt 600 kroner mer i skatt per år. De var også villige til å betale for å redusere faren for at oppdrett påvirker kysttorsken negativt. Her var betalingsvilligheten 260 kroner per person per år. Noe overraskende var det at de som deltok i undersøkelsen bare var villige til å betale rundt 170 kroner per person per år for å redusere negative effekter på villaksen. På den andre siden var folk ikke villige til å betale noe for å redusere sjenerende utsikt eller støy fra oppdrettsanlegg. Det kan skyldes at de ikke synes det å se og høre oppdrettsanlegg er sjenerende.

(foto: Julide Ceren Ahi)

Når det gjelder fisketurisme, undersøkte vi først om folk var villige til å betale mer skatt for at myndighetene skulle jobbe mer for å øke kysttorskbestandene – noe de var. Hver person var i snitt villig til å betale over 900 kroner mer i skatt per år for det. Videre ba vifolk om å angi hvordan de ønsket å fordele ressursen kysttorsk mellom kystfiskere, fisketurister og private fritidsfiskere som dem selv. Her var det en helt entydig tilbakemelding om at folk ikke ønsket å regulere kystfiskerne strengere, mens de aksepterte at de selv som private fritidsfiskere ble strengere regulert, dersom også turistfiskere ble det. I de to nevnte undersøkelsene var resultatene relativt klare og entydige.

Det var de ikke i gruveundersøkelsen. Der spurte vi om folk var villige til å betale mer i skatt for å få redusert planene for ny gruvevirksomhet i Repparfjorden. Vi tok ikke opp diskusjonen for eller imot gruvevirksomheten. Også her var det forurensingen av havbunnen som var det viktigste for folk. Hver person var i snitt villig til å betale over 1000 kroner i skatt for at gruveselskapet skulle gjøre tiltak slik at havbunnen fortest mulig skulle bli rehabilitert. Folk var også villige til å betale 550 kr per person for å unngå negative effekter av gruvevirksomheten på villaksen i Repparfjordelva. De var derimot ikke villige til å betale noe for å få lokale arbeidsplasser i gruvevirksomheten.

Så hva sier disse resultatene oss? Resultatene er et første forsøk på å finne priser på goder som ikke omsettes i marked, og som derfor ikke har en markedspris. Likevel er de viktige for vår velferd. Problemet er at de ofte blir oversett av beslutningstakere fordi de ikke har priser. Da kan de ta beslutninger som er langt fra optimale for samfunnet, det vil si oss.

Forskningsprosjektet MarES – Changing use and values of marine ecosystem services in Arctic Norway har fått støtte fra Norges Forskningsråd i perioden 2017-2020 og avsluttes 31.12.2020. Prosjektet har vært ledet av professor Margrethe Aanesen ved Norges fiskerihøgskole, og i tillegg har professor Claire Armstrong, professor Vera Hausner og stipendiat Julide Ceren Ahi deltatt fra UiT. Nasjonale samarbeidspartnere er Akvaplan-niva, NMBU, Universitetet i Stavanger, og Menon. Prosjektet har hatt en internasjonal ekspertgruppe bestående av økonomer som jobber med naturressurser fra UK, Danmark og Canada, og en styringsgruppe med representanter fra Fiskeridirektoratet og Fylkesmannen i Troms sin miljøvernavdeling.

Species on the move make way for new feeding interactions

Marine species are on the move due to global change, but can they start feeding on local species that they have never encountered before?

Photo: Audun Rikardsen

Written by Laurene Pecuchet and Marie-Anne Blanchet

Temperature changes in the world’s ocean are causing marine species to move. As these species settle in new areas, they might come across species they never encountered before. In order to establish themselves in a new area they need to feed on the unfamiliar species. Can the newcomers feed on these, and what could be the consequences for the local ecosystems? In a new study published in Global Change Biology, researchers from the BRIDGE research group at Norges fiskerihøgskole (NFH) predicted feeding interactions between range-shifting species and Arctic species and investigated the potential impacts of these new interactions on the Barents Sea Arctic ecosystem.

Many boreal species (orange) are expanding their distribution range polewards, entering the historically Arctic ecosystem (blue)

The Barents Sea is a productive ecosystem located off the northern coast of Norway and Russia. This ecosystem has experienced large species redistribution during the last decades with poleward shifts of boreal species.In recent years (2014-2017) about 10 boreal species were found inside the nets of scientific surveys in the Arctic region of the Barents Sea. These boreal species have the common characteristic of being generalist species, meaning that they eat a large array of preys. Then, could these incoming boreal species start feeding on Arctic residents, and by doing so deepen their impact on the Arctic ecosystem?

To predict feeding interactions between the incoming boreal species and the Arctic residents, the BRIDGE researchers used previous knowledge on who eats whom between the species in the Barents Sea.

–We found that all incoming boreal species have the same potential to feed on Arctic preys, as well as being eaten by Arctic predators, says the researchers. – Cod, for example, is predicted to start feeding on Arctic species such as polar cod or the northern krill, but they could also become the prey of Arctic mammals such as the narwhal or the beluga.

Range-shifting boreal species (orange) such a cod might start to eat and be eaten by Arctic species (blue)

These new feeding interactions might intensify the impacts of invasive boreal species on the Arctic ecosystem by reshaping the network of who eats whom. Because the incoming species are generalists, they have the potential to connect some food chains more tightly together. This could make the system less resilient to perturbations because they could propagate through the network more easily.

In a rapidly changing world, it is becoming harder and harder to keep up with the pace of new ecological interactions. To document these changes analysis such as stomach content and isotope analysis can be too time and effort consuming. In this study, the authors circumvent these problems by using machine learning and prior knowledge on who eats whom to infer ecological interactions and help predict the impacts of range‐shifting species on ecosystems.

The article “Novel feeding interactions amplify the impact of species redistribution on an Arctic food web”

The research group BRIDGE