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Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic to break new ground

The rapidly-changing Arctic presents a challenge to those working on adaptation actions at the local, regional or global level. The inherent uncertainty of long-range climate forecasts makes it important to provide Arctic communities with a broad suite of tools to help them respond to a changing ecological and social environment.

"Th eAACA [Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic, parts A through C] will break new ground. It will integrate knowledge from many different fields of expertise. It will do so across national borders. And it will have set the goal to inform decision-making process that relate to adaptation action. This is very ambitious, but given the enthusiasm, the quality of discussions, and the commitment at the Barents region AACA workshop, we are off to a good start." (Morten Olsen, Chairman of Working Group AMAP)

The melting of the sea ice, thawing of glaciers, and changing snow patterns are examples of the changing Arctic environment. Due to such changes, Arctic countries and communities are taking steps to adapt and respond.

"While there is general agreement that changes in climate and other pressures are likely to pose significant challenges for Arctic, the most effective means of dealing with them are less well understood", said Marianne Kroglund, one of the co-leads for the Barents Region Team.

Several analyses of conditions in the Arctic and scenarios of how the near-term future may develop have been performed over the past two decades. However, these do not cover all fields and – more importantly – they have not yet been put together to create an integrated picture of the ongoing changes. In addition, there is a wealth of local and indigenous knowledge that has yet to be integrated. Thorough analysis and integration across different fields of knowledge will support adaptation responses to complex combinations of stressors.

The project “Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic – Part C” (AACA-C) is one of the Arctic Council’s flagship efforts to address this question. It is led by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) Working Group, in collaboration with other Arctic Council Working Groups and scientific organizations. The project’s mandate is “[…] to consider Arctic-focused climate and integrated environmental frameworks/models that can improve predictions of climate change and other relevant drivers of Arctic change.”

The AACA-C will, in its pilot phase, address three specific and distinct regions (Barents Sea, Baffin Bay-Davis Strait, and Beaufort Sea - Chukchi Sea). A workshop in Tromsø, Norway on 10-12 December 2013 worked on the details of the planned assessment for the Barents Sea region.

Monica Tennberg, one of the co-chairs for the Regional Integration Team for the Barents Region, said of the Barents Region: “This region is an interesting case through which to study the relationship between pressures, drivers and adaptations in the Arctic context. It is the most densely-populated region of the Arctic, with great cultural diversity, multiple uses and users of local resources, and ambitious development plans for the future.”

Over two days, more than forty people gathered to lay out the project’s next steps. They represented seven different Arctic Council states, Permanent Participants, five Arctic Council Working Groups, and experts covering socio-economic fields, cultural research, and the natural sciences. Many participants had hands-on experience with adaptation in the Arctic, and the broad participation underlined the interest in, and truly integrative character of, the AACA.

"Putting together knowledge from different fields of science with other expert knowledge, and doing so across borders, will certainly be a challenging undertaking. However, the better we describe and understand how the different components of the rapidly changing Arctic act together, the better is the foundation to make wise decisions to address the challenges and to prudently take advantage of opportunities."(Morten Olsen, Chairman of Working Group AMAP)