01 February 2023: New paper “A regime shift in the Southeast Greenland marine ecosystem”

The paper “A regime shift in the Southeast Greenland marine ecosystem“ by Scientific Committee (SC) member Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen was recently published in Global Change Biology. It was co-authored, among others, by current SC Chair, Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid and former SC member, Gísli A. Víkingsson, who sadly passed away last year.

In this paper, the authors describe two major oceanographic changes in the coastal areas of Southeast Greenland which have led to a regime shift in the local marine ecosystem.

Image by Aline Dassel from Pixabay

Traditionally, the ecosystem was linked to large amounts of drifting pack ice coming from the Fram Strait with the East Greenland Current (EGC). However, the amount of pack ice has decreased significantly in the last 20 years and summer sea ice has practically disappeared since 2003. The disappearance of the drift-ice may represent a regime transition across a tipping point towards open water in summer.

Moreover, the temperature of the EGC has risen by over 2 °C since 1980 and in combination with a warmer Irminger current which transports saline Atlantic water into the area, the ecosystem’s fish fauna has changed. Additionally, an increase of humpback, fin, killer, pilot whales and dolphins has been observed while simultaneously the abundance and catches of ice-associated species like narwhals and walrus declined.

In the future, it is likely that the abundance of boreal cetaceans and fishes will increase, whereas Arctic species such as narwhals will disappear from SEG. These changes might be an indicator for what will be a common scenario in the Arctic.

Read the full study by Heide-Jørgensen et al. here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.16494

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