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BALANCE - Global Change vulnerabilities in the Barents region: linking arctic natural resources, climate change and economies

Summary information

Funding:FP5 - Research project
Total cost:3471724
Ec contribution:2872872
Start date:2002-12-01
End date:2005-11-01
Duration:39 months
Coordinator:Manfred A. Lange (
Organisation:University of Münster, Institute for Geophysics – Germany
Themes:Ice melting; temperature changes; biological impacts; socio-economic impacts
Regio:Arctic; North Atlantic
Project name:BALANCE - Global Change vulnerabilities in the Barents region: linking arctic natural resources, climate change and economies
Project summary:Objectives
The main goal of BALANCE lies in a comprehensive, integrated assessment of the impacts of climate change on environmental and societal components of the Barents region, followed by an assessment of vulnerabilities of the various ecosystems and economies to climate change. This is pursued on the one hand through the construction of an integrated assessment model, and on the other hand through an integrated network of individual expert models that cover the different components of the Barents system (climate, marine ecosystem, terrestrial ecosystems, economies based on natural resources). Linkages between models had to be identified and feedback runs, and subsequently expert model outputs shall enable feed-back runs of the climate model in order to assess the impact of changing vegetation and sea surface temperature on the projected climate. Major attention had been paid to data integration via Spatial Data Service (SDI), and to the development of the Stakeholder Portal (Assessment and Decision Support System), presupposing close cooperation and efficient data exchange. In order to make findings accessible results shall be broadly disseminated by various means.
Project outputs:Scientific achievements
Based on the B2 IPCC-SRES scenario two transient climate change runs in 0.5° horizontal resolution had been carried out. As BALANCE aims to project the climate on a detailed regional scale, results from the expert models serve as input for the off-line feedback run of the climate model. Two feedback climate change runs has been performed: one based on data of projected vegetation changes from 1961 to 2099, the second one based on data of projected sea surface temperatures (SST) and on information on sea ice changes from 1995 to 2055. The vegetation feedback run showed that an increased greenhouse gas concentration by the IPCC-B2 scenario leads to a strong warming for the future Barents Sea climate (2080-2099) of about 7°C. The annual mean precipitation shows a clear positive trend and increased about 18.4% for the period 2080-2099 relative to the earlier period 1981-2000. The increase is stronger in winter than in spring and autumn. In summer the precipitation shows a high temporal variability. The definition of linkages between the individual models and their quantification and the specification of vulnerabilities of environmental and socio-economical components of the Barents System comprised elements of the applied methodology. The results of the off-line feedback climate change run with updated SST data indicate that the climate signal is minor compared to the absolute value of the signal. Nevertheless it was shown by the fish model that the projected changes of the marine ecosystem will result in the changing migration and spawning patterns of Cod and Capelin, which in turn can have implications of the fishery sector. An increase in river runoff by 25 % as a result of altered snow cover and precipitation distributions will have a bearing on near-coastal marine processes. In addition the terrestrial models project an increase in boreal needle leaved evergreen forest, as well as northwards and upwards extensions, and an increase in total biomass production. Shade-intolerant broadleaved deciduous trees will migrate also northwards and upwards. Shrublands will be replaced by forests, and tundra Plant Functional Types (PFT) will disappear in the Scandinavian mountains. Tundra in Russian Federation will be found further north. Projected future warmer climate will lead to slightly changing timber stocks of Norway spruce and Scots pine, but will result in an increase of potential insect impact, which subsequently will influence future tree composition. Whether or not the Barents Sea Region will become a net sink or source for CO2 cannot be conclusively deduced. A detailed study on a number of bird species indicates that climate change will lead to a loss in habitat and thus a decline in population numbers in the Barents region.

Socio-economic relevance and policy implications
Regarding the investigations on climate impact on economies in the European North the results show the following:
- Forestry: Single extreme whether event, like a storm can have a much larger impact on forest exploitation than a gradual change in climate. This may also have implications on the forest labour market and thus on the regional development. However, the vulnerability to climate change is determined to a significant extent by the adaptive capacities, which in the case of forestry might be high, because of an increasing availability of technology and infrastructure, thus, resulting in a small vulnerability of forest economy to climate change.
- Fishery: Among the fishery resources, cod fisheries dominate the economic exploitation of the Barents Sea ecosystem. Northern Norway is highly dependent on fish resource utilisation. The results form the modelling efforts regarding aquaculture and fishery show, that the socio-economic relevance in terms of adaptation to the impacts of global warming is small compared to technological means of aquaculture and fisheries management, e.g. the selection of a specific management regime.
- Reindeer herding: This sector is probably the most directly vulnerable in terms of climate change. However, our studies show that traditional adaptation strategies are still pursued and have resulted in relatively modest vulnerabilities to environmental factors. In the countries of Fennoscandia the vulnerability of reindeer herding to climate change is less than expected in Russian Federation. This again is mainly based on the fact that the fennoscandian herders have access to means of adaptation, thus decreasing the vulnerability. Stakeholders, when asked about their view on climate change largely consider it but one (mostly less important) factor determining their future. BALANCE, through its involvement of stakeholders and through the Assessment and Decision Support System makes contributions to the transfer and sharing of knowledge, encouraging and enabling an active rather than a passive adaptation to wider processes of environmental change, and thus improving life qualities of communities in the European North.

Dissemination and exploitation of the results
The results of BALANCE have been published in scientific journals, numerous scientific reports and on the Internet through various websites. It should be highlighted that there will be a special issue of the journal "Climatic Change" that will be exclusively comprised of findings from the BALANCE project. The project and its rationale have been presented at scientific conferences and stakeholder meetings on many occasions. Moreover, a dedicated Stakeholder Portal provides hands-on information and offers ample opportunities for stakeholders to engage in the process of refining adaptation measures derived. An exhibition is showed in municipalities of Finland, Norway and Sweden. It is accompanied by a film. All material is to be found at the project web site.

Project related publications and deliverables are available on the project website.