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ATP - Arctic Tipping Points

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Summary information

Funding:FP7 - Collaborative Project
Total cost:6550000
Ec contribution:5000000
Start date:2009-02-01
End date:2012-01-31
Duration:36 months
Coordinator:Paul Wassmann (
Organisation:University of Tromsø – Norway
Themes:Ice melting; abiotic changes; biological impacts; socio-economic consequences
Project name:ATP - Arctic Tipping Points
Project summary:There is mounting evidence that ecosystem response to certain types or magnitudes of extrinsic pressures (climate, human impacts, etc.) is often abrupt and non-linear, leading to a significant reorganization of system properties and processes. These ecosystem changes are known as regime shifts (Scheffer et al. 2001). Such non-linear responses are often initiated by qualitative changes in the structure or function of the ecosystem, and are so fundamental that the impacted ecosystems respond to new pressures in completely different manners than the original ecosystem did (May 1977). Regime shifts arise, for instance, from the introduction of alien species or the loss of key species in ecosystems. These changes can result in alterations of the most basic ecosystem parameters, including food-web structure, the flow of organic matter and nutrients through the ecosystem, or the patterns of space occupation, leading to a cascade of changes in the ecosystem. Climate drives both community structure and key organismal functions, so it is hardly surprising that regime shifts identified from marine ecosystems are often linked to climate (Cushing 1982, Steele 2004).

The broad interdisciplinary consortia assembled in the Arctic Tipping Points (ATP) project will be managed (WP1) to identify the elements of the Arctic marine ecosystem likely to show abrupt changes in response to climate change, and establish the levels of the corresponding climate drivers inducing the regime shift for these tipping elements. ATP will evaluate the consequences of crossing those tipping points, and the associated risks and opportunities for economic activities dependent on the Arctic marine ecosystem. Historical records of Arctic climate change and projections of future changes in Arctic sea climate and ice systems are compiled (WP2), and time series of Arctic ecosystem components analysed using novel statistical tools to detect regime shifts and ecological thresholds and tipping points, and evaluate their sensitivity to climatic forcing (WP3). Experimental manipulations and comparative analyses across broad climatic ranges will be used to detect climatic thresholds and tipping points of Arctic organisms and ecosystems, using genome-wide analyses to develop genomic markers of climate-driven stress useful as early warning indicators of the proximity of tipping points (WP4). A biological-physical coupled 3 D model will be used to generate future trajectories of Arctic ecosystems under projected climate change scenarios and to identify their consequences for the Arctic ecosystem (WP5). The impacts of abrupt changes in the Arctic ecosystems for activities of strategic importance for the European Arctic and the associated impacts on employment and income will be elucidated, and policies and legislative frameworks to adapt and mitigate these impacts will be analysed (WP 6). The effectiveness of possible alternative, post-Kyoto policies and stabilization targets in avoiding climate-driven thresholds in the Arctic ecosystem will be examined, and the results and projections will be conveyed to policy makers, economic sectors and the public in general (WP7).