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The Faroe Islands
Dam, M.; Bruntse, G.; Reinert, A.; Joensen, J.P. (2000). The Faroe Islands, in: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 1. Regional chapters: Europe, The Americas and West Africa. pp. 31-41
In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) (2000). Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 1. Regional chapters: Europe, The Americas and West Africa. Pergamon: Amsterdam. ISBN 0-08-043207-7. XXI, 934 pp., more

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Document type: Review


Authors  Top 
  • Dam, M.
  • Bruntse, G.
  • Reinert, A.
  • Joensen, J.P.

    The Faroe Islands are situated on the Greenland-Scotland Ridge from which they extend above sea level. This submarine ridge has sill levels between 400 and 600 m depth along most of its path. Flow across it therefore occurs in the upper layers (down to approx. 500 m) while the ridge blocks exchange of the deepest layers. The ridge thus acts as a partial barrier between the 'Arctic-Mediterranean' ocean north of the Faroes and the rest of the World ocean. In the areas north of the ridge, cooling and brine rejection in freezing water in the upper layers increase water density sufficiently to allow it to sink to intermediate (500-1000 m) or deep levels. This creates a pressure gradient which in the intermediate and deep layers drives a flow southwestwards over the ridge, while in the upper layers a compensating northeastward flow is induced. On the Faroe Plateau, sea temperatures are mainly influenced by the North Atlantic Water, reaching an average of 10°C in summer and decreasing to an average of 6°C in winter . The 1100 km coastline mainly consists of bedrock and bedrock boulders. Only small areas, usually at the bottom of the fjords, are covered by sand or mud. Most parts of the hard substrate coast is steep cliffs. These and the relatively small tidal amplitude results in a narrow littoral zone. Many of the species resemble those found in the littoral zone of the adjacent areas in the North Atlantic. There are certain differences though, like the scarcity of Fucus serratus, and the lack of Littorina littorea. The Faroese economy is strongly dependent on fishery and aquaculture, with fish and fish products accounting for over 99% of the gross value of the exported products in the period 1992- 1997. Chemical pollution is very limited, a consequence of its rather isolated position in the North Atlantic away from the dense populations and large industries of central Europe, and of favourable ocean currents. This does not, however, make the Faroese people a 'reference population' with respect to environmental pollution loads, as one would expect, because the intake of pollutants with marine mammals which are consumed is marked. The best-studied species is probably the long-finned pilot whale, Globicephala melas. Warnings to restrict the consumption of pilot whale meat were first issued in 1977, and this was apparently also the first time mercury was ever measured in Faroese pilot whale meat. Since then, heavy metals and persistent synthetic pollutants in these mammals have been measured. Mercury is of most interest in the islands, mainly due to the high concentrations carried in whale meat, but also since mercury tends to be associated with fish.

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