The Nansen Legacy - A science-based action towards UN Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 14

The Nansen Legacy is a novel research project that provides scientific knowledge on the rapidly changing marine environment of the northern Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Ocean.

The project studies the climatic changes and their impact on marine life in a fragile arctic environment. Hence, it is a science-based action towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals 13 (Climate action) and 14 (Life below water).

The scientific knowledge generated by the Nansen Legacy project lays the foundation for sustainable management of an emerging ice-free arctic sea, and one of the World's richest fisheries.

The northern Barents Sea was once covered by sea ice even during summer months.

Now it is largely ice-free during summer and increasingly during winter.

The Barents Sea is at the epicenter of Arctic sea ice loss.

The map shows Arctic sea ice concentration anomalies in November 2016. Areas with unusually low concentration are red. The darker the color, the greater the difference from the long-term average.

Warmer, ice-free conditions represent an "Atlantification" of the northern Barents Sea.

Map: climate.gov

Nansen Legacy scientists investigate the rapid loss of sea ice in the northern Barents Sea using a multitude of measurements in the field as well as from air-borne instruments using helicopters and satellites.

Adam Steer (Norwegian Polar Institute) has worked with sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Adam uses drills, drones and state-of-the-art surveying tools to measure sea ice thickness and snow depth in the field. Photo: Tristan Petit

Advanced mathematical climate models are used to understand how the observed sea ice loss in the Barents Sea will propagate further into the Arctic Ocean.

Marius Årthun (University of Bergen) has been fascinated by the historical Arctic pioneer Fridtjof Nansen since his childhood. Now he is using advanced mathematical climate models to study how the Arctic Ocean Nansen ventured 125 years ago is vastly changing. Photo: private

Nansen Legacy scientists are also concerned with the consequences of an increasingly ice-free Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean for the globale climate, and the weather in different parts of the World.

One example of consequences from sea-ice loss that affects our everyday lives: Millions of London commuters experienced severe delays due to heavy snowfall in February 2018.

The record-breaking blizzards hitting the UK and western Europe were a direct result of the increased formation of air-moisture over the unusually ice-free Barents Sea.

Photo: Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo

Decreasing arctic sea ice cover is a direct consequence of rising global temperatures.

The knowledge generated by the Nansen Legacy project contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 13 Climate Action.

Another major focus of the Nansen Legacy project is how sea ice loss alters the life under water in arctic seas.

More and warmer water has been flowing into the Arctic Barents Sea from the South.

This alters the formerly arctic marine life towards a more Boreal-Atlantic community.

Until 2004, arctic fish species inhabited the northern parts of the Barents Sea, as shown on the map to the left.

Increased inflow of warmer water from the Atlantic favoured the expansion of more warm-loving Atlantic fish species into the formerly arctic part of the Barents Sea by 2012.

Maps: climate.gov

Nansen Legacy scientists investigate the changes in the marine life of the region from marine viruses, bacteria and algae, to fish and whales.

Bodil Bluhm (UiT The Arctic University of Norway) has worked as a marine biologist in most parts of the Arctic Ocean for the last 25 years. She has discovered an undescribed Arctic species and bears witness to the tremendous changes Arctic marine wildlife has undergone in recent decades. Photo: Christian Morel / christianmorel.net

Nansen Legacy scientists are also concerned with other factors putting pressure on arctic marine wildlife.

Increasing carbon dioxide concentrations lead to an acidification of the oceans which is especially pronounced in the cold waters of the Arctic.

Ocean acidification threatens marine life by dissolving calcareous shells and imposing physiological stress.

Agneta Fransson (Norwegian Polar Institute) is a chemical oceanographer and has studied the ocean carbon cycle, seawater and sea ice chemistry for more than 25 years in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Agneta is especially concerned about the polar ocean uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide, ocean acidification and how it affects marine life. Photo: Tor Ivan Karlsen / Norwegian Polar Institute.

Chemical and plastic pollution is transported to the Arctic with air and ocean currents, where it accumulates in marine wildlife.

Katrine Borgå (University of Oslo) investigates how chemical pollutants absorbed by tiny marine algae and crustaceans are subsequently transferred through the food web and concentrated in top predators like fish, seals, birds and polar bears. Photo: private

Climatic changes

Ocean acidification

Pollution from chemicals and plastics

...are altering arctic marine food webs.

Nansen Legacy scientists are also concerned with how these factors may affect one of the World's richest fishing grounds.

The Barents Sea is home to one of the World's largest fisheries, with total landings of over one million tons of fish per year.

Barents Sea fish is exported all over the world. Africa alone imported 6500 tons of dried cod in 2020.

Subsequently, sound ecosystem-based management of the Barents Sea fisheries is an important contribution to global food supply and ocean health.

Photo: Anette Grøttland Zimowski / Norwegian Seefood Council

More than 200 scientists across institutions and disciplines are required to build urgently needed holistic knowledge on how increasing global temperatures alter an entire ecosystem from an arctic to a boreal state.

This knowledge is an important piece of the puzzle revealing the Arctic response to the ongoing anthropogenic pressure that motivates the the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Background photos: Christian Morel / christianmorel.net
Created By
Lena Seuthe