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POLARPROG-Polarforskningsprogram

Arctic ecosystem impact assessment of oil in ice under climate change

Alternative title: Økosystempåvirkning fra olje i is for Arktiske økosystemer under klimaendringer

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

Project Number:

314449

Application Type:

Project Period:

2021 - 2024

Funding received from:

Location:

Climate change cause sea ice to retreat at unprecedented rates opening up large vulnerable Arctic areas and ecosystems for oil and gas exploration and potential new shipping routes. Extracting and transporting oil come with the risk of accidental oil spills. Petroleum activities are therefore strictly regulated, and authorities require risk assessments of new areas before granting licenses. Risk assessments require knowledge of the spatiotemporal distribution of vulnerable marine resources and oil concentrations from spill scenarios driven by high-resolution ocean circulation models to quantify ecosystem impacts. Furthermore, effective communication and cross-disciplinary interaction are required for decision- and policymakers to act upon and implement the scientific findings. This project (ACTION) will develop and demonstrate risk assessment of the cumulative impacts of climate and oil spill near ice on a keystone Arctic of relevance to stakeholder policy development. Specifically, ACTION will develop data-driven models based on field and lab experiments to assess cumulative impacts of climate and oil spills on polar cod (Boerogadus saida). The project will provide decision-makers in government as well as oil industry with more timely and precise information in a relevant format on the risks for marine species when planning for industrial activities, thereby reducing the envelope of uncertainty when developing regulatory measures and operational guidelines. Polar cod spawn under ice in the southeastern and northwestern Barents Sea during spring. Sea ice retreat decrease the polar cod habitat and allow species such as Northeast Arctic cod to move into areas traditionally dominated by polar cod. Recent research now provide knowledge on sensitivity to oil exposure that may be implemented in improved risk assessment models informing of population effects of individual exposures.

ACTION will develop data-driven mechanistic models based on field and lab experiments to assess cumulative impacts of climate and oil spills on a key Arctic fish species, emphasizing polar cod (Boerogadus saida), relevant to stakeholder policy development. The project will provide decision-makers in government as well as oil industry with more timely and precise information in a relevant format on the risks for marine species when planning for industrial activities, thereby reducing the envelope of uncertainty when developing regulatory measures and operational guidelines. The polar cod is a circum-polar species that plays an essential role in ice-associated food webs, such as in the Barents Sea, linking the lower (i.e. zooplankton) and higher (e.g. other fish, mammals, seabirds) trophic levels. Polar cod has buoyant eggs that are laid under ice and both eggs and larvae are found in high concentrations near the surface following ice melting. Ongoing climate change, with the associated reduction in Arctic sea ice cover, and increased human activity in Arctic waters, combine to pose an increasing threat to polar cod. We will emphasize the understanding of underlying mechanisms for effects so that the outcome is applicable to other species, areas and pollutants. Outcomes include improved and combined models for the environmental parameters, the early life stages, and the fate of oil spills in ice infested areas based on existing field observations and lab experiments in collaboration with international partners. Society benefits from knowledge supporting sustainable management of the marine environment and its resources by resource utilization at optimal levels with societal tolerable footprints. Our development of data-driven models will increase the capacity of quantifying further change in vulnerability to pollutants under climate change. The proposed research will also provide generic knowledge to address other species and other pollutants such as plastics.

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Activity:

POLARPROG-Polarforskningsprogram