A lecturer from Newcastle University will join a £10 million project to investigate the devastating effects of climate change on the Arctic.

Dr Geoffrey Abbott will be part of a team using underwater vehicles to collect data in the depths of the Arctic Ocean. 

Far from being remote from British life, climate change in the Arctic could have a big impact on aspects of the UK economy like fisheries, food production and tourism.

The £10 million grant, from the Natural Environment Research Council, will pay for 20 researchers from 16 UK institutions to look into the effects of melting of sea ice and rising temperatures in the Arctic region. 

Some impacts of climate change that have become clear so far are the rapid thinning of sea ice and the migration into the Arctic of animals and plants that have until recently lived further south. 

The Arctic Ocean – which is the fastest-warming sea in the world – may be free of ice in the summer in just a few decades.

photo courtesy of Roderick Eime, from Flickr Creative Commons
Dr Abbott’s team will investigate the effects of melting sea ice (photo courtesy of Roderick Eime, from Flickr Creative Commons)

Dr Abbott’s team will study the part of the Arctic Ocean near to the retreating sea ice, as well as investigating the complex interactions between different lifeforms living towards the bottom of the ocean and on the seabed.

The project will also involve filtering hundreds of litres of seawater in order to study plankton – tiny plants and animals that live in seawater and are a vital source of food in the Arctic.

Dr Abbott said, “Our project will focus on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, the seafloor, which is by no means the boring, dark environment it might be perceived as.”

“It is, in fact, a complex ecosystem teeming with life, and it plays an extremely important role in Arctic biodiversity, food webs, the recycling of nutrients back into the overlying water, and the long-term burial of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as dead organic material.”

“Our team will, without doubt, have the muddiest job in the upcoming expedition, but someone needs to do it – and we love it!”

(Featured image courtesy of NASA, from Flickr Creative Commons)

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