The main objective of the report is to give a comprehensive description of the Barents Sea ecosystem, including human activities and impact in the area, using relevant scientific and monitoring knowledge from Norwegian, Russian and other sources.
The report will contribute to the knowledge basis for development of an ecosystem based management plan for the Russian part of the Barents Sea and contribute to further development of the ecosystem based management plan for the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea.
The Barents Sea has internationally been identified as a single large marine ecosystem (LME). The scientific basis from this project will therefore also contribute to the whole Barents Sea ecosystem being a consideration when the two countries further develop ecosystem based management in their respective parts of the sea area.
Knowledge basis for ecosystem based management
A number of features characterise ecosystem based management. An overarching issue is that different types of human impact should not be considered isolated from each other, as is often done in the traditional sector based management that typically precedes ecosystem based management. Rather, what needs to be focused is the combined impact of different activities on the ecosystem.
This largely determines the framework in which knowledge for ecosystem based management should be assembled and developed. It implies that in addition to broad knowledge about the different elements of the ecosystem, knowledge of impact from all major anthropogenic drivers is required. This should finally be used to assess what the combined impact of the various drivers are on the different components of the ecosystem.
It should be noted that this also implies that knowledge about the overall dynamics of the ecosystem is needed, because anthropogenic impact on one set of components in the ecosystem may spread to other components through the pathways on which species naturally interact with each other. In addition, knowledge of influence of the physical environment is needed, because this can affect how the ecosystem responds to anthropogenic impact.
Structure of the report
In this report, a general description of the components of the ecosystem is given in chapter General background description of the ecosystem. This includes descriptions of the physical environment and the main biological components. In addition, general descriptions of the different human activities in the Barents Sea are also given here. Chapter General background description of the ecosystem ends with a discussion of how the ecosystem is affected by natural variation in the physical environment, the natural dynamics of species interaction and how different anthropogenic activities generally affect the ecosystem.
In chapter Monitoring of the ecosystem, the monitoring that is used to collect the data on the state of the ecosystem and the human activities are described.
In chapter Current and expected state of the ecosystem the most recent of these data, much of it collected in 2008, are used to describe the current status of the ecosystem. Current status for the different components of the ecosystem and human activities and impact are first described in separate subchapters. These subchapters and the general description of the dynamics of the ecosystem given in chapter General background description of the ecosystem are then used as input to discuss the overall current dynamics of the ecosystem. This discussion is given in subchapter Conclusions about state of the ecosystem. Here, conclusions are drawn about the impact of major anthropogenic drivers on the status of the ecosystem. This is done partly by comparing and drawing on knowledge about human impact on other marine ecosystems in the North Atlantic and the North Sea.
Possible long term changes caused both by some of the main drivers are discussed in subchapter Some aspects of possible long-term future changes in the ecosystem. Effective management requires adaptive management strategies that reflect changing circumstances. This is especially important in view of the impact of anticipated climate change and ocean acidification on marine ecosystems.
No full analysis of the impact
It should be emphasised that although overall analyses of the combined impact of all human drivers on the ecosystem is ultimately needed when developing ecosystem based management, such analyses are beyond the scope of this report. Chapter Conclusions about state of the ecosystem nevertheless go some of the way towards this. Most importantly, the general description and analyses of impact from different human activities throughout the report provide additional pieces of information to be used in such overall assessments.
In chapter Issues of importance for ecosystem based management, it is discussed how the contents of the previous chapters may be used to further develop ecosystem based management. The chapter takes the form of highlighting and discussing important issues that are relevant for development of ecosystem based management. This also includes considerations about the importance of considering the combined impact of different anthropogenic drivers. It should be emphasised that although core issues are discussed, no attempt is made to give a complete list of themes relevant for ecosystem based management, but rather to highlight some of the important lines of work beyond this report.
Summary and major conclusions are given in the chapter Summary and main conclusions.