Climate change affects ocean ecosystems more than it affects those on land, especially in the Arctic.
Even though temperature clearly has a direct and profound effect on ocean organisms, how this happens is not well understood.
And, as long as we don’t know how temperature changes and other factors affect the ecosystems, it remains difficult to predict what effects climate change will have upon life in the ocean, says a recent newsletter published by the Norwegian Marine Research Institute.
It is one of the most active agencies studying arctic oceans in the world.
Climate research forces us to improve our understanding of how ecosystems function. So we have to create various models that explore different scenarios, say institute scientists.
So now varied research on climate change is underway in the Barents Sea.
The Effects of North Atlantic Climate Variability On the Barents Sea Ecosystem is one of them.
Led by Norwegian Svein Sundby of the Institute of Marine Research, the goal is to understand the impacts of Arctic climate variability on trophic transfer and ecosystem structure of the Barents Sea.
In turn, this would improve estimates of growth and recruitment of key fish species, wrote Sundby on the project’s website.
In the Arctic, reproduction, recruitment and growth of fish stocks varies greatly from year to year.
Scientists have traced these variations to changes in ocean climate, which both affect the fish directly and indirectly via the availability of food, which is also affected by these changes.
According to Sundby and his co-workers, the cod in the Barents Sea is a typical example of a fish stock whose size fluctuates in direct connection to temperature changes.
Generally, good catch occurs in warm years, and vice versa.
Though the temperature of the Barents Sea and fish catch has been duly recorded for many decades, scientists still don’t understand the variations between years or the reasons for them.
So it stands to reason that understanding temperature changes would greatly benefit the Norwegians, as well as any other fishing nation.
The scientists use five methods in their research.
First, they explore the connection between large-scale weather patterns and local climate.
Then they see how such patterns effect changes in the ocean climate, and of what importance that is to biomass production.
Second, Sundby and his co-workers focus on one tiny animal, the copepod Calanus finmarchicus that is an important source of food for many fish.
Here, they look at the effects of ocean climate and circulation on the production and movement of the species onto the northern Norwegian Shelf and the Barents Sea.
Third, they create an integrated model, where they simulate distribution, transport, growth and survival of fish larvae during one summer.
Fourth, they develop egg-production models for several fish species important to Norwegians.
Here, they focus in particular on cod, haddock and herring.
Last, they combine the two models made in the third and fourth steps, in order to imitate growth and recruitment of the fish stocks in the Barents Sea.
The hope is that the model will promote research into both physical and biological processes important to fish recruitment.
All this is very interesting, as they say in Norway, and we can only wish these scientists good luck.