Understanding the effects of climate change and industrial development on contaminant processes and exposure in the Canadian Arctic marine ecosystem (ACCCPE)
Recent studies have shown that climate change is already having significant impacts on many aspects of contaminant transport pathways, speciation, cycling and exposure within Arctic ecosystems. For example, the extensive loss of sea-ice in the Arctic Ocean and the concurrent shift from greater proportions of perennial to annual ice types have been shown to promote changes in primary productivity, food web structure, mercury methylation and demethylation rates, and mercury distribution and transport across the ocean–sea ice-atmosphere interface (bottom-up processes). Changes in animal social behavior associated with changing sea-ice regimes are now known to affect dietary exposure to contaminants (top-down processes). In addition to the climate effects on contaminant cycling and exposure in the Arctic, the changes currently underway in sea ice cover, and market pressures for new resources have resulted in a significant increase in planned or prospective natural resource development (e.g. in USA and Russia). In particular, there has been a resurgence of interest from mining and oil and natural gas companies in exploration and development licensing. Additionally, shipping traffic through the Canadian Arctic is predicted to continue to increase with decreasing ice concentrations. The environmental issues surrounding oil spills in ice-covered waters remain a key concern of all stakeholders. The proposed studies will provide valuable scientific information needed to support governments and communities in their efforts to take remedial and preventive actions relating to contaminants entering the environment and the adverse effects of climate change and industrial development in the Arctic marine system.