A bucket of water can reveal climate change impacts on marine life in the Arctic

4 min read
fairly difficult
We know very little about marine life in the Arctic. Now researchers are trying to change that. They have shown that a simple water sample makes it possible to monitor the presence, migration patterns and genetic diversity of bowhead whales in an otherwise hard-to-reach area. The method can be used to understand how climate changes and human activities impact life in the oceans.
Climate changes prompt many important questions. Not least how it affects animals and plants: Do they adapts, gradually migrate to different areas or become extinct? And what is the role played by human activities? This applies not least to Greenland and the rest of the Artic, which are expected to see the greatest effects of climate changes.

'We know surprisingly little about marine species and ecosystems in the Arctic, as it is often costly and difficult to do fieldwork and monitor the biodiversity in this area', says Associate Professor of marine mammals and instigator of the study Morten Tange Olsen from the GLOBE Institute at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

To address these questions, researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources collected water samples in West Greenland with the help of local hunters and fishermen. Their method is simple: Go out to sea in a small boat and collect water in bottles. The content, however, is far more complex. The bottles with seawater contain so-called environmental DNA, which can provide insight into how climate changes and human activities impact the biodiversity. The researchers have chosen to focus on the bowhead whale, which constitutes a key species in the Arctic ecosystem and therefore is a good indicator of changes in water…
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