In a commentary released in Nature Climate Change, a group of 13 scientists argue that the Nordic countries are in a unique position to showcase how to handle the growing pressure on the oceans. However, this relies on a collective ability to regard change as connected.
The Nordic Seas are among the most sensitive to environmental change on Earth and climate predictions, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This suggest that the high latitude regions are in for a hefty roller-coaster ride in the years to come with increased temperatures, changed wind patterns, more acidic water and retreating sea ice. But it is not only climate that matters; new and complex interplay emerges due to an ever-growing human presence.
"What we're just beginning to realize is the sheer level of complexity that arises from the fact that change is taking place at all levels in the oceans," says Dr. Oyvind Paasche, who is the first author and leader of the Bergen Marine Research Cluster. He adds; "During the last decades it is mainly changes in temperature and sea ice that have made headlines, but the ecosystems themselves are also changing, which is of utmost importance."
Another aspect, which recently has gained global attention, is the potential for industrial expansion in the Nordic Seas, which can represent a boom for many coastal societies. Tourism, oil and gas, aquaculture, and shipping are all major players that already are expanding in this region.
"We need to produce food and we need to have a healthy economy, but what really is at stake here is the question of sustainability. If we continue adding pressure to systems that are close to the breaking point, or will be in a short time, the consequences will be long-lasting and far-reaching" states Dr. Henrik Osterblom of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Dr. Stefan Neuenfeldt of the Centre for Ocean Life in Denmark stresses that the seas of Norden needs to be understood as connected, and not treated as separate compartments. "The Ocean is always in motion and the level of interdependency is much higher than what one might think."
"We are now in the process of creating an analytical framework that can make sense of a multi-stressed ocean," says Professor Nils Christian Stenseth, the chair of NorMER and one of the co-authors, "but we're only at the beginning, and unless the Nordic Countries enhance collaboration within this field, our understanding will continue to lag behind the change we already observe, which is in no one's interest. Policy makers must not only be informed, but be informed by state-of-the-art insights, and that can only be accomplished by acknowledging that the Seas of Norden are connected."
Materials provided by The University of Bergen. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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