The most important arctic oasis is susceptible to climate change: researchers say global warming is threatening the region’s ecosystem and they predict that the oasis will cease to exist.
The Environmental Change Research Unit (ECRU) of the University of Helsinki participated in an international study investigating the millennial history of the most important oasis in the Arctic and
the possible effects of climate change on your future.
North Water Polynya is a year-round open water area located between northwestern Greenland and Ellesmere Island, Canada, in northern Baffin Bay, which is otherwise
covered by sea ice approximately eight months of the year. The area is known as an Arctic oasis, and one of the main migration routes for the original Greenlandic population lies right
north of the area.
In the study, microfossils and chemical biomarkers conserved in marine and lake sediments were analyzed as keys to the past, exposing the historical variation in North Water Polynya in
the last 6,000 years.
The high rate of primary production of the polynya, for which, in marine environments, diatoms and other microalgae are responsible, maintains a diverse and unique ecosystem that serves as a safe haven.
for a variety of species in otherwise harsh Arctic conditions. Arctic keystone species, such as the polar bear, walrus, and narwhal, also thrive there. For the
Indigenous populations that depend on hunting and fishing, this area, the largest polynya in the Northern Hemisphere, has been a lifesaver.
According to the study, the polynya was stable and its primary production was high approximately 4,400-4,200 years ago, at the time when people arrived in Greenland from Canada in the
Nares ice cream strait.
However, the stability of the polynya has varied over the past millennia: during the warmer climatic periods of 2,200-1,200 years ago, the area was unstable and its productivity was reduced.
drastically. When primary production rates are low, significant reductions are observed in populations of organisms at higher levels of the food web, such as zooplankton,
fish and marine mammals.
According to archaeological finds, there were no inhabitants in the area during this period. It is a mystery that can potentially be explained, in light of the research findings, by
conditions that were unfavorable for people who depended on hunting and fishing, ”says researcher Kaarina Weckström from the Environmental Change Research Unit of the
The researchers note that air temperature has never reached the current level in northwestern Greenland in the 6,000-year period of history of the polynya studied. The warm-up
The global climate and shrinking sea ice caused by human activity have caused the polynya to become unstable. The area is maintained by favorable ocean currents and winds, and
in particular to an ice bridge located to the north of the polynya, which prevents the drift ice in the Arctic Ocean from moving further south. It is the annual formation of this natural block that now
a warming climate threatens.
This area, the most important oasis in the Arctic, is likely to disappear if temperatures continue to rise as expected. It would be important to at least slow down climate change, so that
indigenous peoples of the Arctic have some kind of opportunity to adapt. On the other hand, as the history of the polynya suggests, if we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and
By mitigating the rise in air temperature, both Arctic sea ice and polynya can be restored, ”Weckström summarizes.
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Global warming threatens the most important Arctic oasis – La Prensa de Monclova