Kelp forests are highly productive habitat and that may store carbon and mitigate CO2 emissions. Over 20% of the world’s kelp forests occur along Arctic coastlines, and these are predicted to expand with warming and reduced sea ice cover due to climate change. BlueArc provides new knowledge on the impact of climate change and other stressors like sea urchins on Arctic coastal ecosystems by discovering how future Arctic conditions will alter kelp carbon sink potential. The project will use underwater experiments, models, deep sea cores and genetic tools to detect kelp burial on Arctic shelves and trace kelp-carbon flows from Arctic coasts to deep ocean regions. BlueARC will bring together researchers from Norway, Canada, Denmark and Greenland to provide new data Arctic kelp blue carbon. The work will take place across sub-Arctic and Arctic regions in the north Atlantic: from Nunavut and Labrador in Canada, across western Greenland, to northern Norway and Svalbard. This will be a significant step forward in our understanding of carbon cycling by Arctic coastal ecosystems. BlueARC will contribute to UN Decade challenges on projecting ecosystems and ocean-based solutions to climate change and SDGs: “Climate action (13)” and “Life below water (14)”.
Over 20% of the world’s kelp forests occur along Arctic coastlines, yet shifts in the structure and ecological function of these habitats as a result of climate change are poorly understood. Kelp forests are highly productive ecosystems and are expected to contribute significantly to global carbon cycling and CO2-mitigation through blue carbon sequestration. Warming and reduced sea ice cover are predicted to expand kelp forests in the Arctic, which, coupled with slow and incomplete decay in cold waters, represents a potential increase in kelp carbon sequestration capacity. Knowledge on the factors regulating kelp carbon production and fate is however currently scarce in these regions, but critical to assess the impact of climate change and other stressors on Arctic carbon cycling. BlueARC will conduct field work across Arctic biophysical gradients to understand the conditions regulating kelp biomass, production and detrital export. The project will also quantify the fate of kelp carbon by identifying environmental and biological processes that alter detrital transport to potential deep ocean sinks across the subarctic to Arctic transition, and use degradation experiments, oceanographic models and genetic tools to trace kelp-carbon buried on arctic shelves. BlueARC will bring together researchers Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Greenland to provide new data on spatial extent and carbon standing biomass of kelp ecosystems, and to test overarching hypotheses on climate-driven impacts on their potential as coastal carbon sinks. The study area integrates subarctic and Arctic regions in the north Atlantic: from Nunavut and Labrador in Canada, across western Greenland, to northern Norway and Svalbard, and finally to the White Sea in Russia. The resulting knowledge will by synthesized to predict how rapidly changing arctic conditions will alter kelp carbon sinks and by mapping carbon storage and sequestration potential across the Arctic now and in the future.