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National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA's Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment


Land-Ocean Interactions in the Arctic: An Integrative Field Campaign to Assess the Impacts of Natural- and Anthropogenic Changes to Coastal Ocean Biology, Biogeochemistry and Biodiversity

The overarching objective of the proposed field campaign is to better understand the impact of climate change on land-ocean interactions in the Arctic Ocean, and specifically examine the effect of these changes on river-dominated coastal ocean biology, biogeochemistry and biodiversity. Over the past 100 years, high northern latitude regions have experienced more rapid warming than elsewhere on Earth. This trend is expected to continue over the next century and as such, Arctic ecosystems have become an intense focus of climate change research. In addition to this region being critically important to our understanding and modeling of key biological and biogeochemical processes, and short-term climate forcings and feedback loops that potentially accelerate local warming, environmental change in the Arctic is increasingly affecting society in a variety of ways. While there is a legacy of research on the nature and effects of climate change in the Arctic, major gaps remain in understanding the vulnerability, response and resilience of Arctic coastal ecosystems to continued environmental change and anthropogenic disturbances.

With a focus on coastal ocean processes, the proposed campaign will provide a critically needed linkage between past field campaigns focusing on the Arctic open ocean environment, such as NASA's ICESCAPE project, and other past and on-going field activities focusing on Arctic river processes, chemistry and fluxes. A key component of the proposed field campaign will be the use of spatial-temporal information products derived from remotely-sensed data to extend observations to larger spatial and longer temporal scales, and the proposed integration of satellite and field observations with coupled physical-biogeochemical models for predicting impacts of future pressures on Arctic, coastal ocean, biological processes and biogeochemical cycles. At the inception of our scoping efforts, the study regions will be the continental margin and coastal ocean off the Mackenzie and Yukon Rivers. These two drainage basins provide the largest discharge and the largest fluxes of dissolved and particulate carbon to the Arctic Ocean from the North American continent. Further, these tentative locations minimize the temporal gap with the NASA-funded ICESCAPE (currently in its final stages) while coordinating and leveraging directly with the upcoming multidisciplinary NASA field campaign ABoVE (Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment) that aims at better understanding drivers and consequences of climate change in Arctic terrestrial ecosystems.

Through organization of two dedicated workshops and presentations at NASA Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry (OBB) science team meetings, the proposed scoping study will engage the broader scientific community and invite participation of experts from a wide range of disciplines (including physical and social sciences), to refine our research objectives and outline detailed research strategies needed to attain these objectives. The scoping study will also involve interagency and international collaborations. The deliverable will be a comprehensive report to NASA outlining the major scientific questions, and developing the initial study design and implementation concept for this new NASA OBB field campaign. The proposed campaign is strongly relevant to NASA's OBB overarching programmatic goals, and is particularly timely as it corresponds with the release of the National Strategy for the Arctic Region in May 2013, which includes as its priority protection of the Arctic Environment and the call to increase our understanding of the Arctic through scientific research and traditional knowledge.