Warmer water from the south, less cooling in the north and less ice combine to make life more difficult for Arctic marine species.
‘The changing environment has modified the Arctic part of the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. The water has become warmer and has less ice,’ said marine scientist Randi Ingvaldsen at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, who explained to 700 of the world’s leading climate scientists at the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Ocean conference how the ocean in the far north and the fish that live there are affected by climate change.
The Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean are already being affected by climate change – in several different ways: warmer water from the south, less cooling in the north, and less ice.
‘The water coming in from the Atlantic Ocean has become warmer. Then this heating is amplified in our oceans, because the cooling has become smaller – a double effect,’ she said.
‘The ice edge has moved further north. We see larger areas without sea ice, and less sea ice where there is ice,’ she said, explaining that less sea ice leads to weaker stratification in the ocean, which in turn leads to less sea ice.
‘These three mechanisms provide a feedback loop in the ocean.’
For the Arctic part of the Barents Sea and the species that live there, the development is bad.
‘Many of the Arctic species have poorer living conditions because the ice disappears and the water gets warmer. Then new species come into their areas and eat them or their food,’ she said.
For the species living in the southern Barents Sea, climate change can be good.
‘The boreal species, such as cod, have larger habitats,’ Randi Ingvaldsen said, adding that a further consequence of warmer water and migrating species is that the ecosystem becomes more connected.