Collapsing coasts in the Arctic: environmental and socio-economic impacts

Michael.Fritz [ at ]


Arctic warming is exposing permafrost coastlines, which account for 34% of the Earth’s coasts, to rapid thaw and erosion. Coastal erosion rates as high as 25 m yr-1 together with the large amount of organic matter frozen in permafrost are resulting in an annual release of 14.0 Tg (10^12 gram) particulate organic carbon into the nearshore zone. We highlight the crucial role the nearshore zone plays in Arctic biogeochemical cycling, as here the fate of the released material is decided. With Arctic warming, erosion fluxes have the potential to increase by an order of magnitude until 2100. Such increases would result in drastic impacts on global carbon fluxes and their climate feedbacks, on nearshore food webs and on local communities, whose survival still relies on marine biological resources. Quantifying the potential impacts of increasing erosion on coastal ecosystems is crucial for food security of northern residents living in Arctic coastal communities. We need to know how the traditional hunting and fishing grounds might be impacted by high loads of sediment and nutrients released from eroding coasts, and to what extent coastal retreat will lead to a loss of habitat. Quantifying fluxes of organic carbon and nutrients is required, both in nearshore deposits and in the water column by sediment coring and systematic oceanographic monitoring. Ultimately, this will allow us to assess the transport and degradation pathways of sediment and organic matter derived from erosion.

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Conference (Keynote)
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POLAR2018, SCAR/IASC Open Science Conference, 19 Jun 2018 - 23 Jun 2018, Davos, Switzerland.
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Fritz, M. , Lantuit, H. and Vonk, J. E. (2018): Collapsing coasts in the Arctic: environmental and socio-economic impacts , POLAR2018, SCAR/IASC Open Science Conference, Davos, Switzerland, 19 June 2018 - 23 June 2018 .

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