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Project Description
The Arctic Ocean is unique on Earth in its physical and biological properties. It is the most extreme ocean in regard to the seasonality of light and its year-round existing ice cover. Current knowledge indicates that the Arctic seas hold a multitude of unique life forms highly adapted in their life history, ecology and physiology to the extreme and seasonal conditions of their environment. Our knowledge of what currently lives in the Arctic Ocean is still rudimentary compared to most other regions, due to the logistical challenges imposed by its multiyear ice and inhospitable climate.

The Arctic Ocean is also the area where the impact of climate change might be strongest expressed. The already on-going changes make the effort to identify the diversity of life in the major three realms (sea ice, water column and sea floor) an urgent issue. Changes in the environmental conditions will have direct effects on the marine biota on multiple scales, from communities and populations to individuals. Species level information is, therefore, essential to discussions on climate change or anthropogenic impact, their expressions and effects. These effects can only be detected through long-term monitoring of key species, communities and processes. For monitoring and assessment of changes, the availability of baseline data is crucial.

The Census of Marine Life is implementing a project aimed at documenting the present Arctic Ocean Biodiversity (PDF download) using an international Pan-Arctic view. The operational approach is for coordinated research efforts, designed to examine the diversity in each of the major three realms: sea ice, water column and sea floor. This program will consolidate what is known and fill remaining gaps in our knowledge: it aims for active participation in the International Polar Year 2007/2008. ArcOD was listed as lead for the Arctic Ocean diversity cluster by ICSU. Most recent research efforts in the Arctic Ocean focus on processes. The emphasis of this program is on biodiversity, because processes are critically impacted by the composition of biota involved in them.

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