Vulnerability of the North Water ecosystem to climate change

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt


  • Sofia Ribeiro
  • Audrey Limoges
  • Guillaume Massé
  • Kasper L. Johansen
  • William Colgan
  • Kaarina Weckström
  • Rebecca Jackson
  • Eleanor Georgiadis
  • Naja Mikkelsen
  • Antoon Kuijpers
  • Steffen M. Olsen
  • Martin Nissen
  • Astrid Strunk
  • Sebastian Wetterich
  • Jari Syväranta
  • Andrew C.G. Henderson
  • Helen Mackay
  • Sami Taipale
  • Erik Jeppesen
  • Xavier Crosta
  • Jacques Giraudeau
  • Simone Wengrat
  • Mark Nuttall
  • Bjarne Grønnow
  • Anders Mosbech
  • Thomas A. Davidson

High Arctic ecosystems and Indigenous livelihoods are tightly linked and exposed to climate change, yet assessing their sensitivity requires a long-term perspective. Here, we assess the vulnerability of the North Water polynya, a unique seaice ecosystem that sustains the world’s northernmost Inuit communities and several keystone Arctic species. We reconstruct mid-to-late Holocene changes in sea ice, marine primary production, and little auk colony dynamics through multi-proxy analysis of marine and lake sediment cores. Our results suggest a productive ecosystem by 4400–4200 cal yrs b2k coincident with the arrival of the first humans in Greenland. Climate forcing during the late Holocene, leading to periods of polynya instability and marine productivity decline, is strikingly coeval with the human abandonment of Greenland from c. 2200–1200 cal yrs b2k. Our long-term perspective highlights the future decline of the North Water ecosystem, due to climate warming and changing sea-ice conditions, as an important climate change risk.

TidsskriftNature Communications
Udgave nummer1
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2021

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This study received financial support from EU’s FP7 project ICE-ARC under Grant Agreement No. 603887, the North Water Project (www.NOW.KU.DK) funded by the Velux Foundations and the Carlsberg Foundation of Denmark, the Villum Foundation Young Investigator programme (Grant VKR023454 to S.R.), and project GreenEdge. J.S. was funded by the Academy of Finland (project 296918), SR received support from the Independent Research Fund of Denmark (grant 9064-0039B) and A.L. was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Grant 2018-03984). We thank the people of Avanersuaq, and all participants of the ArcticNet 2015 Leg 4a expedition onboard CCGS Amundsen, especially Philippe Archambault. Lewis Collins is acknowledged for discussions and Kirsten Hastrup for hosting the first meeting that ultimately led to this interdisciplinary study. In memoriam of our dear colleague Lene K. Holm. We acknowledge the use of imagery from the NASA Worldview application (, part of the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

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