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Environmental status of Svalbard coastal waters: coastscapes and focal ecosystem components (SvalCoast)

Søreide, Janne E.; Pitusi, Vanessa; Vader, Anna; Damsgård, Børge; Nilsen, Frank; Skogseth, Ragnheid; Poste, Amanda; Bailey, Allison; Kovacs Kit M.; Lydersen, Christian; Gerland, Sebastian; Descamps, Sébastien; Strøm, Hallvard; Renaud, Paul E.; Christensen, Guttorm; Arvnes, Maria P.; Moiseev, Denis; Singh, Rakesh Kumar; Bélanger, Simon; Elster, Josef; Urbański, Jacek; Moskalik, Mateusz; Wiktor, Józef; Węsławski, Jan Marcin

This is chapter 6 of the State of Environmental Science in Svalbard (SESS) report 2020 (

Coastal waters are among the most productive regions in the Arctic. These nearshore waters are critical breeding and foraging grounds for many invertebrates, fish, birds, and marine mammals and provide a host of ecosystem services, from private outdoor activities to large-scale tourism and fisheries. Arctic nature coast types (= coastscapes) and biodiversity are under growing pressure as climate change and human activities increase in the region. More data on the rates of change in the physical, chemical and biological environments in these highly dynamic and heterogeneous coastscapes are urgently needed. Svalbard is warming more rapidly than anywhere else in the Arctic, and the Arctic is warming at 2-3 times the rate of other areas globally. Svalbard experiences steep climate gradients due to being at the interface between warm Atlantic and cold Arctic waters. Warming is creating a huge potential for increased colonisation by boreal species, with potential negative impacts on “native” species assemblages and food webs. Changes in physical drivers and biodiversity patterns must be documented to predict upcoming challenges and opportunities as the Arctic changes. This synopsis is the first joint effort across nations, institutes, and disciplines to address current gaps in knowledge and monitoring of Svalbard’s coast – a result of an international workshop Svalbard Sustainable Coasts in Longyearbyen, February 2020. Another important task of this synthesis work was to look into the applicability of the defined coastscapes and biodiversity tools in the Arctic Coastal Monitoring plan, initiated by the Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF,, for Svalbard. 

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