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The seas around Greenland
Riget, F.; Johansen, P.; Dahlgaard, H.; Mosbech, A.; Dietz, R.; Asmund, G. (2000). The seas around Greenland, in: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 1. Regional chapters: Europe, The Americas and West Africa. pp. 5-16
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


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  • Riget, F., more
  • Johansen, P.
  • Dahlgaard, H.
  • Mosbech, A.
  • Dietz, R., more
  • Asmund, G.

    The seas around Greenland cover an area from the High Arctic in the north to the Subarctic in the south. The area is characterised by a cold climate with extreme variation in light and temperature, short summers and extensive ice cover in winter. Some areas are ice-covered all year round. Water masses from the Polar region enter the areas through the Fram Strait in the east and the Nares Strait and Canadian Archipelago in the west. At southeast Greenland, a branch of the relatively warm North Atlantic Current joins the East Greenland Current from the north. The currents flow around Cape Farewell and northward along the West Greenland coast, the most productive sea in Greenland. Only 56,000 people live in Greenland. The seas are mainly used for fishing and hunting. Today, fishing is mainly carried out by a modern trawler fleet. The fish species in the area are heavily exploited, as are some of the marine mammals and seabird populations. Both onshore and offshore mineral exploration activities are currently undertaken; however, at present, no minerals are exploited in Greenland. Contaminant levels in the Greenland marine ecosystem are relatively low compared with more southern latitudes. Exceptions are the high Cd and Hg concentrations found in the higher trophic levels, as a result of biomagnification. Although levels of persistent organic pollutants are relatively low compared with industrialised areas, these compounds are of concern because of their ability to biomagnify, and because in some areas marine mammals and seabirds constitute a significant part of the human diet. The main sources of contamination are believed to be the industrialised areas in Europe, Russia and USA. Pollutants are transported to the areas around Greenland by the atmosphere and by the marine currents; however, transportation by ice may also play a role. The prevailing wind patterns, especially in winter, transport air masses from industrialised areas to the Arctic. The cold Arctic climate seems to create a sink for certain compounds, resulting in an accumulation. Local sources of pollutants in the marine environment around Greenland play a minor role. Three major mines have been in production in Greenland, and elevated heavy metal levels have been observed in fjord areas within approximately 40 km from the mine sites.

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