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Arctic sea ice is melting - Could the Arctic Ocean become an oa-sis for life?

Karl Attard, Fellow of Marine Science at DIAS, wants are more nuanced discussion of the con-sequences of melting ice in the Arctic Ocean.

Af Marie Hohnen, , 25-04-2022

It might not be all for the bad.

There could be some positive consequences to the fact that sea ice in the Artic is melting. It depends on your perspective, Karl Attard, Assistant Professor in Marine Sciences, Department of Biology, argues.

- Plants in the ocean need sunlight to photosynthesize. As the amount of sea ice in the Arctic continues to decline, more light will penetrate the oceans, fueling more photosynthetic growth. The melting ice will create a different, more productive ecosystem, Karl Attard says.

Karl Attard is a marine scientist by training and has a strong interest in the Artic Ocean. His research shows the complexity in ecosystem responses to a melting ice pack in the Arctic.

When there is less ice, more sunlight will fill the ocean, which will lead to more photosynthetic growth. This could lead to improved fish stocks and easier trade routes through the Arctic.

Therefore, if your interests are primarily in fishing and trade, then this will likely be a good thing, according to Karl Attard.

- The consequences of the melting ice are varied. Often, we look at something and determine: Is this a good or a bad thing? With this issue, it depends entirely on your perspective. There are important nuances to consider in a balanced debate. With my research, I hope to provide a discussion on this, he says.

Exploring the ocean

Growing up near the ocean on the small island of Malta, Karl Attard always knew he wanted to explore and study the ocean.

He watched David Attenborough and Jacques Cousteau unfold the wonders of the oceans as a child and decided to pursue a marine science degree.

- Becoming a marine scientist was what I wanted to do from the beginning. As I began studying marine science, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, Karl Attard says.

He studied in Scotland, where he met Professor Ronnie Glud, who later became a DIAS Chair. Glud moved from Scotland to Denmark, and when he had a vacant Ph.D. position, Attard applied and ended up in Denmark.

Today, Karl Attard lives in Odense close to Odense Fjord, where he can easily take his kayak out for a paddle.


A trade off

Now, as a DIAS fellow, Karl Attard wants to exploit the minds and knowledge that DIAS represents. Especially when discussing complex issues like climate change and melting ice in the Arctic.

- This problem has such multifaceted implications ranging from ecology to socioeconomics to geopolitical security and human health, he says.

- For instance, how will the melting ice affect international trade, when new reliable shipping routes linking Asian markets to European waters become available through the Arctic? And how will this increased activity in turn affect Arctic ecosystems? These questions necessitate interdisciplinary discussions that consider sea ice forecasts, supply chain operations, and governance.

Climate change is an issue that is truly interdisciplinary, and therefore it would according to Attard be obvious to link up with other people at DIAS to blend knowledge from different fields of research.

- My passion is to understand how ecosystems in the Arctic are changing. Even if the ocean becomes more productive when there is less ice, is that a tradeoff we are willing to take? There will be large consequences for organisms that are emblematic of the Arctic Ocean, such as polar bears and seals, that may live their entire life cycle on the ice. Are we ready to accept that human activities have led to the collapse of an entire Arctic ice ecosystem? This is a discussion we need to have, Karl Attard says. 

About Karl Attard:

  • Karl Attard is an Assistant Professor in Marine Sciences at the Department of Biology at the University of Southern Denmark and a DIAS Fellow of Marine Science.
  • Attard received his Ph.D. from SDU in collaboration with the Greenland Climate Research Centre and performed Postdoctoral training at the University of Helsinki.
  • He has participated in more than 30 international expeditions that include the Arctic, the Antarctic, and remote islands in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
  • Attard’s research interests include metabolic processes of photosynthesis and respiration, biogeochemical cycles of climate-relevant gases such as CO2, macroecology, Polar ecosystems, and ecosystem impacts of climate change and extreme weather.
Redaktionen afsluttet: 25.04.2022