Impacts of climate change for the marine Arctic

Some implications of climate change for the marine Arctic ecosystem are fairly intuitive. For instance, polar bears and ringed seals are bound to be negatively impacted by the loss of ice that provides the physical platform for their hunting and reproduction. Other consequences are less obvious.

The micro-algae that grow in the brine channels of ice and in surface waters are the ultimate source of food for the marine food web, much like grass sustains cattle on land. Will the production of these microscopic plants increase or decrease and will the transfer of this production toward harvestable resources become more or less efficient?

How will the biomass, distribution and species dominance of microalgae, zooplankton and fish change? Is the capacity of the Arctic Ocean to absorb the greenhouse gas CO2 de-creasing or increasing?

We will seek answers to these questions by looking at how changes in the physical environment (e.g. loss of sea-ice, increasing temperature, enhanced episodic mixing of the water column by storms during spring and autumn, increased penetration of Atlantic waters) affect the productivity and species dominance of organisms in the lower part of the food web. Changes in the lower food web are bound to affect the nutrition and spatial distribution of higher trophic level organisms such as seals, whales, and polar bears.

Study site locations

Amundsen Gulf, Viscount Melville Sound, Barrow Strait, Lancaster Sound, North Water Polynya, Baffin Bay, Gibbs Fjord, Hudson Strait, Hudson Bay.

Local collaborations

Our collaborations with northern communities are limited to having a Wildlife Monitor on board since our field work mainly takes place on the CCGS Amundsen.

Project contact information:

Jean-Eric Tremblay
Université Laval
Québec, QC

Michel Gosselin
Université du Québec à Rimouski
Institut des sciences de la mer
Rimouski, QC