In the face of climate change, models being evolved for sustainable management of ecosystems

Arctic scientists are working to evolve models for future sustainable management of Arctic ecosystems. The efforts attain significance in the wake of glaring signals — melting glaciers and climate change — in the Arctic region, said Bijoy Nandan, Associate Professor (Marine Biology), Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), who was a member of a recent Indian contingent to the Arctic. The team returned last week after a summer expedition to the region.

Glacial levels are be receding at the Zeppelin Glacier Mountain, a virgin land in the arctic region, according to the instruments of the Norwegian Polar Institute that measured annual glacial levels. The area could be accessed only through cable cars; the arctic climate had become more or less unpredictable with wide temperature variations, strong winds and frequent haziness, said Mr. Nandan. Studies on the impact of climate change and its reflection on the life have heightened worry among scientists across the world.

Impact evident

From glaciers melting to the changed lifecycles of some organisms, the impact of climate change, Mr. Nandan said, in the area was evident. — the development and breeding cycle of sea butterflies, a mollusc variety, has undergone changes. Scientists reported that traces of metal and other residues derived from facial creams, body lotions and other sources from the main land, could be found in arctic sea animals. Snow-levels had receded, exposing ice slabs. The presence of persistent organic pollutants and an increase in the use of aerosols were also some of the worries, he said.

The focal area of the research of the CUSAT scientist was Kongsfjorden, a high-latitude glacial fjord (a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley by glacial activity) that was influenced by Atlantic and Arctic water masses. Scientists from the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, focused on palaeoclimatic changes.

“The glacial outflow of fresh melt-water containing minerals influences the salinity, water transparency, primary production and sedimentation rates of the fjord. It also induces large changes in community composition and an abundance of benthic organisms [that live in the sea bottom]. The study was to understand the community diversity and phylogeny [the evolutionary relatedness among groups of organisms] of selected benthic organisms in arctic systems,” he said in a communication.

Attempts were made to evaluate the structural-functional ecology and abundance of macro and meiobenthic (soil-dwelling) communities inhabiting the glacial fjords. This study is part of the long-term monitoring of the Kongsfjorden system of arctic region for climate change studies.

Studies on benthic organisms and its community composition can give insights into the structure and function of the soil ecosystem. A time-scale analysis would also be done to model community structure and diversity in the glacial fjord nematodes (roundworms) of the Arctic, he said.

Fieldwork was conducted in the Kongsfjorden arctic system and benthic samples were collected from seven selected transects from depths ranging from 70 m to 350 m. Detailed analysis of the samples for the community structure of benthic organisms and its relation to climate change variability was progressing, he said.