Marine Systems

Current research projects (2019-2024)

Rapidly changing ecosystem dynamics in the Arctic Ocean’s Last Ice Area (RED-AO)

The Arctic Ocean (AO) is a key component of Earth’s climate, acting as a coolant by contributing ~10% to the global oceanic carbon pump. Its capacity to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere comes from its cold waters that favour CO2 dissolution and its highly productive continental shelves that help sequester this carbon. Yet, the AO is warming at an unprecedented rate and the local and global consequences of its rapid evolution remain uncertain. The Last Ice Area (LIA), north of Canada and Greenland, is the last sanctuary of multiyear sea ice in the AO. The LIA includes the Lincoln Sea, which hosts unique endemic sea ice-dependent ecosystems. However, the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the Lincoln Sea remain nearly undocumented. RED-AO aims at improving understanding of how global change influences ecosystem functioning and biogeochemical cycling in northern Baffin Bay and the Lincoln Sea – an emblematic refuge of climate change. This project proposes a pioneer oceanographic expedition during which, for the first time, sea ice, hydrography, biogeochemical cycling of nutrients and contaminants, and marine ecosystems will be observed simultaneously. It will provide a comprehensive baseline for conservation efforts and allow us to study key processes related to past, present, and future climate-induced changes. This project will strengthen both the conservation and sustainable resource harvesting of this fragile region by helping to i) create and manage permanent marine protected areas supported by Indigenous governments, and ii) support ecosystem-based management of commercial fisheries led by Indigenous groups in the eastern Canadian Arctic.