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Investigating tipping points in the European Arctic

Polar researchers conducted studies in the European Arctic to better understand how the marine ecosystem and key biological processes respond to a changing climate.
Investigating tipping points in the European Arctic
Roughly 50 % of the Arctic sea ice has already melted and the indications are that the Earth is experiencing a ‘tipping point’ for year-round Arctic ice cover. Tipping points can result in significant changes known as regime shifts.

The EU-funded ATP (Arctic tipping points) project analysed time series data and carried out experiments to investigate the existence of climate driven tipping points for key species and ecosystem processes in the Arctic Ocean. Researchers studied changes to sea ice and ocean temperature and the consequences of crossing tipping points and the impact on the economic sector.

Scientists modelled future tipping points using a biological–physical coupled model based on time series data and experimental analyses. A two-dimensional cellular automata model was also developed to test the properties of different fisheries' management regimes. In addition, researchers investigated optimal oil and gas exploitation strategies under certain prices and weather conditions.

Models developed under the auspices of ATP are dependent on three key factors. This includes the availability of reliable scientific forecasts on future changes of the Arctic marine ecosystem in response to climate change. The two other factors are the development of regionally focused resource-use models, and the efficient transfer of knowledge into managerial and political frameworks.

An understanding of tipping points and their impact due to various levels of warming can inform new international agreements for climate change regulation. Therefore, ATP provided advice on sustainable resource management and climate effects on different climate scenarios to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and formulated a white paper evaluating policy options to avoid exceeding tipping points.

ATP provided policy makers, managers, stake holders and the general public with an understanding of the ecological thresholds and regime shifts that may develop in the Arctic in response to climate change. More important, study findings also indicate how the ecosystems will respond to EU targets for emissions.

Related information


Tipping point, ice cover, regime shift, ATP, climate change
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