Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are carbon-based persistent chemicals found in all compartments of the Arctic ecosystem. They mainly originate from industrialized areas further south and are transported to the Arctic by air and ocean currents, rivers and sea ice. In the environment, organisms can accumulate POPs in their tissues that further get transferred and biomagnified through the food web. Due to their toxicity, exposure to high concentrations of POPs is of concern for wildlife’s health.
The extent, thickness and age of Arctic sea ice has dramatically declined since the late 1990s, and these trends are predicted to continue. Polar bears rely on sea ice for hunting, resting, travelling and in some parts of the Arctic also reproduction. Hence, exploring the habitat use of this sea-ice-dependent species can help us understand which resources they use and how their distribution responds to a changing environment.
The polar front is defined as the boundary in the Barents Sea which divides relatively warm, saline water masses of Atlantic origin and colder, fresher water masses of Arctic origin. This front is particularly distinct not only around Spitsbergen Bank and the Hopen Deep, but also around Central Bank and to some extent eastwards in the Barents Sea. Due to the physical characteristics and implications for biological activity, this area is identified as a particularly valuable and vulnerable area. This report summarises the physical characteristics of the front, and its variation in time and space. A summary is also presented of the biological activity in the polar front region and its value and vulnerability.
The Arctic is warming, and Arctic sea ice has shown a rapid decrease in sea ice extent, ice thickness, and ice age in the last decades. Polar bears rely on sea ice for hunting, resting, travelling and in some parts of the Arctic also reproduction. However, in the European Arctic, polar bears rely on snow drifts on land to den and get their young. Consequently, the timing of sea ice arrival around different land masses in the Barents Sea is important for the reproductive success of individuals spending most of the year on the sea ice. If pregnant females are unable to reach denning habitat by the end of the year (November/ December) they will most likely not be able to reproduce (Derocher et al. 2011).
The report on the marginal ice zone covers the part of the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea where the marginal ice zone is present throughout all or part of the year. A brief summary is presented below based on findings and conclusions in the report. Production conditions, the prevalence of species, vulnerability to different types of impacts and how this varies both through the year and between years have implications as regards the extent to which the marginal ice zone is valuable and vulnerable.