The ARCTOS research network was established in 2002 after the initiative from scientists at The Norwegian College of Fishery Science/University of Tromsø (UiT), the Norwegian Polar Institute, UNIS (The University centre at Svalbard) and Akvaplan-niva. Later, scientists from the Institute of Geology (UiT), the Institute of Marine Research and Bodø University College have joined, as well as scientists in several other institutions in Norway. ARCTOS is organized with a secretariat at UiT, and with part of its administrative activities localized at UNIS, Akvaplan-niva and IMR.
The ARCTOS scientists conduct science over a broad range of marine ecology topics in the Barents Sea and around Svalbard, and in most of the northern waters. Several important institutions in Russia, North America and the EU are collaborating within the frame of ARCTOS, giving this research a pan-Arctic perspective. Research on the Norwegian side is financed through the Norwegian Research Council, EU-programmes, own institutional funding and support from the petroleum industry (StatoilHydro, ConocoPhillips, Eni and Total). ARCTOS is organised as a resesarch project based at the University of Tromsø.
The ARCTOS research network has an open and horizontal structure, but some formal organisation structures are in place:
The Council consists of the leaders of the mother-institutions of ARCTOS. It has a superior role with regard to the promotion of ARCTOS when relevant, and shall assist the Scientific Steering Committee in the development of overall strategies for the research network. The Council also approves the annual plans and budgets for running activities within the network.
The Secretariat is responsible for the coordination of the day to day activities and consistes of the leader and deputy leader of ARCTOS, as well as the ARCTOS secretary. The secretary position is a half-time position located at UiT and is financed in equal shares by UiT, UNIS, NPI, APN and IMR.
The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) is part of the day to day administration of ARCTOS, and is responsible for the scientific activities within the research network. The SSC takes initiatives for new joint projects, and the follow up of existing ones. It also acts as a guide to the secretariate, gives input to proposals to the Council, the PhD school, Arctic Frontiers etc.
To the best of our knowledge, climate change will have effects on all aspects of life and natural resources in Arctic marine systems, from molecular to ecosystem level. The consequences will ultimately also have effects on the global carbon flux. However, despite circumarctic attempts to investigate the last "white spot" in the ocean, predominantly focusing upon the rim of the Arctic ice cover, our knowledge of marine ecosystems in this region is scarce. To meet the overall goals given in the Rio-Convention and Kyoto Protocol, underlying the aim of the Norwegian Minister of Environment, it is important to strengthen and improve marine research in the European sector of the Arctic.
Marine ecologists in northern Norway have established the network ARCTOS to give more thrust to marine ecological research, support international cooperation and integration, and to proliferate the visibility of Norway's research contribution to research in the Arctic. ARCTOS attempts to figure out how climate change influences the system from a molecular to the community level and how this acts on ecosystems, biodiversity and the biological global flux in the Arctic.
Arctic regions are predicted to incur some of the most pronounced effects of global climate change. Preliminary forecasts estimate a reduction of the Arctic ice pack of 20% during winter and 80% during summer by the end of this century. The dramatic northwards retreat of the sea ice zone will result in a profound widening of the marginal ice zone. In the European sector of the Arctic, the retreat results in an extensive stratified area that stretches from the Spitsbergen and Barents Sea shelf deeply into the Arctic Ocean. This situation would change radically from the present state, where a multitude of regions in the European marginal ice zone each support local ecosystem characteristics and processes. Weakly stratified water masses, characteristic of the central Barents Sea today, will spread northwards. Water temperature will increase, the distribution of Atlantic species will spread northwards and new production will probably triple. Changes in weather will further modify the annual patterns and magnitude of primary production. The low productive, presently ice-covered waters in the north will turn into a stratified marginal ice zone with nutrient depletion after a short, intense ice edge bloom. In particular, the shelf-break of the Arctic Ocean in the European sector that presently has quasi-permanent ice-cover, will encounter changes. Seasonally open water in this deep-water region will result in a large spring bloom off the shelf, with concomitant decoupling of the pelagic and benthic systems, and export to the deep ocean.
The above-described ongoing climatic change will increase the speed of industrial development and cause a stronger integration of these geographical areas into global commercial activities. It is of great importance that this development is carried out in a sustainable manner, and based upon scientific knowledge. ARCTOS has therefore a linkage to applied research and its knowledge and expertise will be valuable and useful for a wide range of stakeholders in the Arctic region, from fisheries/aquaculture, oil/gas exploitation, the quality of life for adjacent circumarctic inhabitants, in particular indigenous people, to tourism. Issues such as environmental protection, biodiversity and ecosystem-based pollution assessment are additional aspects where ARCTOS will contribute to the prosperity of the Arctic community as a whole.
- ARCTOS attempts to amplify the cooperation between lower trophic level marine ecologists in Tromsø and Svalbard with the dedicated goal to increase the scientific, logistic and organizational synergy between the involved institutions.
- ARCTOS gives emphasis to marine resources in the Arctic and examines them from a holistic, ecosystem point of view. The sustainability of the ecosystem as such will be the focus in order to realize a continued and long-lasting exploitation of natural resources.
- ARCTOS wishes to give more thrust to marine ecological research, support international cooperation and integration, and to proliferate the visibility of Norway's contribution to research in the Arctic.
- ARCTOS attempts to increase the competitiveness of marine ecological research teams in Tromsø and Svalbard, on a national and international level.
- ARCTOS will connect Norwegian marine ecological research with similar activities across the Arctic region and integrate its research into a pan-Arctic context.
- ARCTOS will continuously screen the opportunities for joint and coordinated research project applications, based on national or international funding agencies.
- ARCTOS endeavors to improve and strengthen the education of students of marine ecology in the Arctic. ARCTOS has established a science trainee school in marine Arctic ecology for PhD students. An important aspect is the creation of post doc positions to build a bridge between PhD students and senior scientists as well as to ensure uninterrupted recruitment of Arctic marine ecologists.
- ARCTOS will work for a close integration of research institutions on Svalbard and the research vessels Helmer Hanssen and Lance into marine Arctic work.
- ARCTOS supports research activities that can be successfully linked to commercial activities. ARCTOS wishes to supply commercial interests in the European Arctic with best possible environmental information (processes, biodiversity, impacts, patterns of dispersal etc.).
- ARCTOS will actively improve the communication between administration and the general public through continuous and dedicated out-reach activities.
- ARCTOS will work actively with artists, journalist and writers to increase the awareness of the Arctic and Arctic science.
- ARCTOS intends to improve the balance between genders in marine Arctic research. The recruitment of women, a demographic sector that is consistently underrepresented among the permanent staff of academic institutions, belongs to the long-term strategies of the network.
The arctic marine ecosystem research network consists of three elements:
- ARCTOS Network consists of a large active contact net of 6 Norwegian, 6 Nordic and 22 International institutions. Founded by scientists at APN, UNIS, NPI, IMR (Tromsø) and NCFS-UoT, the network increases cooperation on basic and applied research and education supported by a world class Arctic research infrastructure.
- ARCTOS PhD-school , formally under the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, NCFS (UoT), provides contemporary education in new methods in Arctic marine science. Today more than 30 PhD, post doc and master students are taking courses given by the PhD school.
- ARCTOS on-going projects consist of more than 30 international research-, network- and teaching projects headed by the different mother institutions, which take advantage of the ARCTOS network and PhD school. These include some of the largest projects in marine ecology in Europe.
In addition, ARCTOS had a great part in initiating the annual Arctic Frontiers conference, which today is an independent organization: