Home / News / Newsletters / Issue n°21 - September 2012

Issue n°21 - September 2012

Issue n°21 - September 2012
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In this issue, we report on some of the recent IMBER events and activities, including the successful IMBER ClimECO3 summer school and the workshop organised by the IMBER Capacity Building Task Team to assess capacity development efforts for IMBER-related marine science in the Asia-Pacific region. In light of the IMBER International Project Office's recent relocation to the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, the 'Science highlights' in this issue focus on work currently being carried out in Norway. There is also a note from IMBER's new Executive Officer, Bernard Avril.

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ClimECO3 Summer School

IMBER held its third ClimECO Summer School at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara Turkey at the end of July. 

Entitled 'A view towards integrated Earth System models. Human-nature interactions in the marine world', ClimECO3 brought together 10 lecturers and 50 students from an array of social and natural science backgrounds and more than 25 countries. 

Read what some of them had to say about the training course below.


Figure 1. ClimECO3 summer school participants

Feedback from some of the lecturers

This year’s ClimECO summer school this year was focussed around integrated systems models and human nature interactions in the marine world. The organisers, Beth Fulton from CSIRO in Australia, and Raghu Murtugudde from the University of Maryland, are two world leaders in this field. Beth not only taught people about practical marine system models, but also introduced many to an assortment of Australian slang. Hands-on exercises allowed students to get their minds around the practical application of, sometimes very theoretical, concepts, many working into the early hours to complete their projects.  

Summer school students had the opportunity to attend lectures given by an eclectic group of researchers with a vast range of combined knowledge. Beth Fulton kicked off the first day by illustrating what integrated earth system models are really good for. Hezi Gildor (The Hebrew University in Jerusalem) followed with a talk about physical-biological-chemical interactions, while Markus Jochum (previously of NCAR) focussed on ocean biogeochemistry in Earth System models. Raghu Murtugudde enlightened us about the connections between the earth, life and sustainability, followed by Baris Salihoglu (Middle East Technical University) talking about processes and model representations of the microbial web and plankton. Laurent Bopp (LSCE) enthralled us with human interactions with biogeochemical cycles and learning about the impact of anthropogenic climate change on primary production in the global ocean. Eileen Hofmann (Old Dominion University) focussed on age structured population models versus individual-based models. Jacopo Baggio (Arizona State University), Ingrid van Putten (CSIRO) and Rashid Sumaila (University of British Columbia) made people think about the human dimension and how to go about modelling it. By virtue of Rashid’s amazing presentation skills, even bio-economics was rendered absolutely fascinating.

The week of lectures ended with an enthralling finale, which was by far the best lot of student modelling projects produced in the space of a week! Student groups had developed sophisticated models for problems such as the link between corruption and overfishing, the effect of communication networks, and the impact of changing predator-prey relationships. It was definitely the students’ turn to beguile the lecturers with many projects that will hopefully end up as journal publications.

Not only were the organisers responsible for the outstanding academic programme, but also excellent after-hours entertainment. In fact, rarely have I seen conference dinner attendees making their way to the dance floor as rapidly as at this summer school. The mix of student nationalities made for an interesting mix of dance techniques!

The summer school was fun and interesting, with lots of learning opportunities. Hopefully there will be many more in the future.

Ingrid van Putten
Researcher – Ecosystems Modelling, CSIRO, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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When I was first asked to participate in the IMBER Summer School I was very excited but also a bit concerned: teaching an interdisciplinary audience is not easy! However, I had an amazing experience with the students and other faculty at the IMBER ClimECO3 Summer School. It provided an excellent opportunity for interaction between social and biophysical scientists. I believe this is fundamental if policies and plans that offer the possibility of delivering what they promise (thus reducing the possibilities of unintended effects) are to be implemented. At the summer school, I presented ways in which human decision-making and social networks can be incorporated into already very complex models, and also when it might be appropriate to use agent based models. This appears to have been well received. The interaction with students whose expertise is in fields very different from my own was excellent and opened my mind to many possibilities. I believe that this type of interaction and interdisciplinary courses such as this international summer school should be the norm, as the complexities of our world cannot be studied in a compartmentalised fashion! 

All in all, it was an amazing experience and I could have not asked better.

Jacopo Baggio
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Arizona State University, Arizona, USA

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The Integrated Marine Biochemistry and Ecosystem Research (IMBER) Summer School brought together about 50 PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and early career scholars from all over the world to learn and interact amongst themselves and with a collection of lecturers, including myself. One may wonder what an economist is doing at a summer school on marine biochemistry and ecosystem research. Well, this is a sign of the times, as it is being increasingly recognized that many of the world's most pressing problems (e.g., the sustainable use and management of marine resources) cannot be addressed effectively by only one discipline. Instead, we need trans-disciplinarity whereby research crosses many disciplinary boundaries. The organizers of this course had trans-disciplinarity as a core organizing principle. Hence, they accepted students with a wide range of backgrounds to be supported by lecturers who are biogeochemists, ecologists, ecosystems modellers and social scientists. The mixing of ideas at the intersection of all the different disciplines and backgrounds made the summer course a very special event. Both students and lecturers ended up being enriched to a degree only such a diverse group can achieve. With respect to my own discipline, the course participants included people who had never attended a formal economics class, to others who had some background in economics. I enjoyed giving my lectures mainly because I received questions that would never arise in a 'straight' economics class. Courses such as this are of immense value to young scholars - they provide networks and connections with their peers and more senior colleagues, from all over the world, that can prove to be invaluable for their career success. The world needs more of such courses!

Rashid Sumaila
Director: Fisheries Economics Research Unit, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


Feedback from some students

One of the major challenges of marine research is its multidisciplinary nature - addressing a complex and mind-boggling matrix of species, habitats, geological, physical and chemical factors and human interrelations with the marine environment.

During the last week of July, I was fortunate to participate in the 2012 IMBER ClimECO3 summer school. The course aimed to address research challenges by focusing on the interactions between humans and the natural environment in the marine world and how to model these using Earth system models. The summer school brought together an excellent mix of leading interdisciplinary scientists, early career researchers and students from 25 countries. For me, this was a unique opportunity to discuss the challenges and potential solutions by synthesizing different thinking systems, and developing inspiring future collaboration, with people from different nations and cultures.

The training program demonstrated a multidisciplinary approach, combining natural sciences modeling with social sciences modeling and presented us with a systemic overview of current knowledge, modeling approaches and hands-on techniques, coupled with field experience and good common sense thinking, to better address marine environmental global challenges.

As a marine ecology PhD student, researching biodiversity changes at the Eastern Mediterranean rocky shores due to sea level rise and biogeochemical cycles, I am challenged by having to combine different data sets to explain ecological phenomena. I found the ClimECO3 summer school to be of great scientific value and extremely beneficial for my research. The combined modeling approaches were not only fascinating but greatly expanded my horizons on the issue. Following the summer school, I have already started using some aspects of what I learned in order to take my research to completely new dimensions.

I would like to thank the organizers, the Turkish hosts for their hospitality, the lecturers and fellow participants of this outstanding summer school. Looking forward to more summer schools in the future.

Niv David
PhD student, Department of Maritime Civilizations, Charney School of Marine Sciences, University of Haifa and Israel National Institute of Oceanography, Israel

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ClimECO3 brought together students from five continents – and I was one of them! Through lectures, hands-on exercises and group projects we learnt how scientists studying ocean chemistry, ecosystems, fisheries, climate change, human interactions and sustainability can work together. The lecturing team were experts in their fields and great communicators – it was a real privilege to have the chance to learn from them.

I have been involved with marine ecosystem work for about six months, based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK. We work with ERSEM, an established and successful, but big, model of the lower trophic levels. The summer school gave me the chance to step back from the intricacies of running a large and complex model to consider wider aspects of marine science, communication and modelling.

So, what did I take away?

  • more insight into my own field, which is still relatively new to me.
  • language and background that will help me to work effectively with social scientists and economists – we have both at PML.
  • new tools and methods to apply to my work.
  • principles for how to do good modelling: basically, stay alert, keep thinking and don’t assume the computer will do all the work for you.

Raghu Murtugudde taught us to think of an individual as a lightweight rider on a large lumbering elephant. The rider represents the rational mind, the elephant represents the emotions - ClimECO3 definitely appealed to both.

The organisers and our Turkish hosts did a superb job of organising the week, from a full briefing beforehand to a memorable evening of Turkish food, music and belly-dancing. A big thank-you to everyone involved.

Susan Kay
Ecosystem modeller, Plymouth Marine Lab (PML), UK

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I was first informed about the IMBER ClimECO3 summer school by one of my academic supervisors and it seemed the perfect opportunity for me to learn about modelling marine systems as part of my PhD on Shifting Baselines in Coastal Ecosystem Service Provision.

Initially, I was hesitant due to my lack of background in oceanography and modelling, but thanks to the feedback and organization prior to the event, including the 50 articles we were asked to read, I was quickly brought up to speed and made to feel confident and comfortable with what was to come at the summer school. Every teacher brought their own expertise and unique way of teaching. I really want to highlight how great they were - not only because of their expertise, but the way they were able to transfer that knowledge to inexperienced students like myself. I don’t have a marine background as such – I did a double Masters in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology. It’s only now during my PhD that I am learning about the marine world. So this event was an excellent opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of biogeochemical cycles, marine food webs and other interactions in the marine environment.

One of the teachers told me that she had first attended a similar summer school and 25 years later she is still collaborating with her fellow peers on projects at a global scale. I met some wonderful people at the summer school, and hope that we will be able to work together on future projects together as well. I would recommended the ClimECO summer schools highly to all young scientists at the beginning of their careers (or at any point, really).

Samiya Selim
PhD student at the University of Sheffield, UK

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Capacity Building Workshop

Needs assessment for capacity development for integrated marine biogeochemistry and ecosystem research in the Asia-Pacific region

IMBER Capacity Building Task Team, IMBER Regional Project Office

An international workshop on “Needs Assessment for Capacity Development for Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research in the Asia-Pacific Region” was held in August, 2012 at the East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, China. The meeting was initiated by the IMBER Capacity Building Task Team (CBTT) to assist countries in the region to make appropriate contributions to regional and international IMBER-related science.

The workshop brought together 20 marine scientists and capacity building (CB) experts to discuss existing CB initiatives and case studies, assess CB needs and consider potential collaboration for future capacity development. The international organizations involved in this effort included IMBER, APN (Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research), SCOR (Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research), IOC/WESTPAC (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Sub-commission for the Western Pacific) and POGO (Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans). Sponsorship was provided by IMBER, APN and the ECNU.


Figure 2. Capacity building needs assessment workshop participants

Professor Yunxuan Zhou, the director of the State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research (SKLEC), welcomed workshop participants. Oral presentations were followed by a roundtable discussion of the issues raised. It was recognized that a diverse range of issues require attention and that future capacity development will need to be prioritized. Breakout groups considered the actions that are needed and possible approaches. Plenary discussions then considered possible outcomes and developed an integrated set of future actions.

Marine CB problems and challenges in the global remit

Two inter-locking challenges complicate the role of international research projects in regional capacity building: creating regional capacity building activities from a global project, and creating long-term, sustained efforts from a project with a limited life-span. Different approaches (including incentives, monitoring and evaluation, follow-ups and legal frameworks) are needed to deal with these two issues.

In addition to the problems associated with the need for different approaches for global and regional CB activities, other constraints and challenges for the implementation of CB activities for projects such as IMBER include:

  • The emergence of new research questions that represent global challenges that may be difficult to address for specific regions
  • The development of specific tools to promote CB at the regional level to meet the challenges of global change science
  • New management approaches towards a sustainable and healthy marine ecosystem
  • Globalisation and the need for better governance of human–nature interactions, including innovative, sustainable use of marine and coastal resources
  • Identification and nurturing of potential research funding to support the long-term CB activities.

Ongoing regional / national CB activities in marine sciences

The overall synthesis suggested that current CB initiatives and efforts in this region do not cater to the tremendous need for capacity development, and have skewed coverage geographically. Integrated and multi- or cross-disciplinary research and approaches need considerable attention at national and regional levels. The need for regular and continuous capacity enhancement efforts was also emphasized.

At the national level, a strategic, structured and systematic approach is somewhat lacking. Most institutions are constrained in assessing their capacity building by “when and what” becomes available, and do not necessarily cover the capacity enhancement needs of individuals or organizations, and obvious gaps exist. On a regional level, countries do not have an equal level of capacity building opportunities. The reach and scope of national, regional and international institutions is limited and therefore, does not always trickle down to where it is actually most needed.

Issues that are common to many countries in the region include maintaining the “critical mass” of new scientists by reducing the “brain-drain”, attracting students into marine science-related careers, and creating opportunities for early and mid-career professionals.

Capacity development needs for marine science in the Asia-Pacific region

In the Asia-Pacific region, capacity development needs for marine science are predominantly driven by social and economic priorities. Three marine research topics were identified as priorities for CB efforts in this region: climate change impacts, ecosystem health and food security. Challenges faced by these issues include sustained funding support for research infrastructure, technical capability for data acquisition and analysis, and the need to develop models. The need for more collaboration to share facilities and expertise for research, and recognition that there should be joint efforts between natural and social scientists to address the issues were noted.

It was also recognized that not all countries in this region are at the same level of capacity and there should be greater support from more advanced countries to raise the level of those countries that need and desire that support.

What can IMBER do to advance CB in the Asia-Pacific region?  

To advance CB globally in a coordinated and effective manner, the IMBER CBTT should revise its CB strategy that aims to meet the scientific objectives outlined in the IMBER Science Plan and Implementation Strategy (2005) and Supplement (2010). This should provide a framework for CB activities until 2020 in line with IMBER’s scientific themes and key questions, while meeting the specific needs of the IMBER regional projects, task teams and working groups and, where possible, endorsed projects.

In developing this strategy the CBTT should consider:

  • Undertaking further CB needs analyses based on the evaluation of past capacity building activities
  • Identifying potential partners for involvement in CB as well as potential funding sources
  • Developing early stage and continuous education and mentoring initiatives through, for example, the use of Web-based networking tools
  • Developing a “cookbook” (step-by-step guide) of capacity building approaches and techniques.
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Alistair Hobday and Olivier Maury (CLIOTOP co-chairs)

The 2012 CLIOTOP Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) meeting was held in Hobart from 10-13 September, and hosted at the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Laboratories. We were joined by two CLIOTOP working group chairs, and an active participant in a 3rd working group for parts of the meeting. Involving CLIOTOP researchers outside the SSC is seen as an important element both in succession planning and in providing realistic feedback to the working group chairs who are responsible for much of the science delivery under CLIOTOP. During the meeting, new members of the SSC also provided overviews of their research, which provided stimulus for science discussion.

The meeting ran over four days, and considerable attention was devoted to planning activities associated with the 2nd CLIOTOP Symposium, to be held in Noumea, New Caledonia, 11-15 February 2013. The Symposium will provide an opportunity for working group participants to meet and plan their synthesis activities over the last two years of CLIOTOP < http://www.imber.info/index.php/Science/Regional-Programmes/CLIOTOP/Meetings-and-workshops/NEW!-The-2nd-CLIOTOP-Symposium-11-15-February-2013-Noumea-New-Caledonia>. The Symposium welcomes contributions relevant to any of the six working groups or the crosscutting themes.

Highlights over the past year came from all six working groups, and included synthesis publications, database development, analytical tools, dedicated workshops, and conference sessions and presentations. For example, the trophic pathways working group has completed development of a new tool implemented in the R software to assist with analysis of diet data based on stomach contents or stable isotopes, and will offer a short course in the use of this tool over two days prior to the 2nd CLIOTOP symposium. The synthesis and modelling working group made significant progress on one of the CLIOTOP synthesis phase activities: development of a Model and Data Sharing Tool (MDST) gathering global datasets of different type and model outputs at the global scale. Developed as part of the French IRD MACROES project, this database is being populated with a range of fishery and coupled model data and will also allow connectivity with “national” databases, provided international standards are respected. This online database has already been used in several CLIOTOP publications, will soon become publicly available, and is expected to be of significant value to the oceanic science community. CLIOTOP workshops at the Far Seas Fisheries Labs (Shimizu, Japan, September 2011), Ocean Sciences Meeting (Utah, USA, February 2012) and the Planet Under Pressure Conference (London, UK, March 2012), brought together scientists addressing a range of the CLIOTOP goals. Workshops continue to be the main vehicle by which CLIOTOP’s international community progress working group objectives, although considerable follow-up is typically required before analysis or a publication is completed.

In frank discussion regarding some of the challenges faced by CLIOTOP in addressing our science goals, the SSC recognized that national programs are still the dominant form of funding opportunity, which has limited several of the global comparative approaches proposed under CLIOTOP. Similarly, most scientists are primarily employed and funded to work at the national or sub-national scale, rather than internationally. Understanding these conditions is relevant with respect to realistic goal-setting by the CLIOTOP SSC.  The SSC also reviewed its own performance against the SSC terms of reference, and scored high for 16 elements, passable for 10, and “failing” for two. This exercise will focus our renewed efforts in the passable category activities, while for the failing elements, a shift in the funding landscape means improvement is unlikely in the current program.

In some countries the climate change research emphasis is shifting from a focus on the understanding of the impacts of climate change, to developing adaptation options. The SSC invited CSIRO scientist Dr Mark Howden to address the meeting on the imperative for adaptation, and he provided examples of incremental and transformative adaptation in agriculture, and emphasised the importance of participatory approaches in the research area. Such efforts around developing adaptation options for open ocean management bodies are likely to be a major focus of CLIOTOP beyond the current phase of research. Initial efforts to document both impacts and adaptation options for oceanic resources in the Pacific Ocean are already underway (e.g. Bell et al 2011), and offer a model for other regions.

In planning for improved connection to a range of end-users of CLIOTOP science, the SSC endorsed the development of a range of communication elements that will be used to summarize our scientific output, including synthesis publications, information sheets, and emphasized the importance of presenting CLIOTOP science at end-user meetings, such as regional fishery management fora. The SSC also recognized that connection between other IMBER regional programs that work on top predators could be improved, and we will explore the opportunity to establish some of these links at a workshop planned for early in 2013. Finally, within-CLIOTOP communication was discussed. Semi-monthly email updates from the co-chairs are distributed to a wide group of working group “members”, and were felt to be meeting the community needs. Our IMBER-hosted webpages are providing a place to showcase our science, and we hope for further contributions from working groups to enhance this site.

Hobart weather during the meeting was favourable, and in addition to the meeting, the group took a short ferry ride to the internationally renowned MONA museum of art, and after the meeting a group also visited a wildlife park to get up close to Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, and wallabies with joeys in the pouch.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the SSC felt that CLIOTOP progress was overall on track, and anticipate a range of exciting science outputs over the coming year.

2012 CLIOTOP SSC participants

Figure 3. Meeting participants – Maria Gasalla (Brazil), Robert Cowen (USA), Karen Evans (WG 2 co-chair Australia), Alistair Hobday (Australia), Jock Young (WG 3 co-chair, Australia), Osamu Abe (Japan), Olivier Maury (France), Kevin Weng (USA).


Bell, J. D., Johnson, J. E. & Hobday, A. J. (ed.) 2011 Vulnerability of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change. Noumea, New Caledonia: Secretariat of the Pacific Community. E-book available at: http://www.spc.int/climate-change/fisheries/assessment/e-book/

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Science highlights

Frontal Attacks:  Exploring Fronts in the Norwegian and Barents Seas

Ken Drinkwater1 and the NESSAR Team

1Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway

The International Polar Year (IPY) consortium Ecosystem Studies of Subarctic and Arctic Regions (ESSAR) was lead by Norway through the IMBER regional programme Ecosystem Studies of Sub-Arctic Seas (ESSAS). This consortium studied various effects of the physical forcing on sub-arctic and arctic marine ecosystems and consisted of 10 separate projects from seven countries. The aim of the Norwegian component of ESSAR, called NESSAR, was to understand the frontal dynamics in the Barents and Norwegian Seas and their effect on biological production and distribution. NESSAR, lead by the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, was primarily a field-oriented project consisting of interdisciplinary cruises during 2007 and 2008. These included two cruises to the Jan Mayen Front south of Jan Mayen (Fig. 4a) and five cruises to the Polar Front in the Barents Sea, in the vicinity of Spitsbergen Bank and Storbanken (Fig. 4b).

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Figure 4a. SSTs from the Nordic Seas based on satellite imagery for February 2008 showing the Arctic Front (the boundary between the dark blue and turquoise colours) and the location of the NESSAR study. 

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Figure 4b. The Barents Sea showing a schematic of the Polar Front (black line) and the NESSAR study areas on Spitsbergen Bank and Storbanken (Great Bank). 

NESSAR achieved a number of firsts. These included:

  1. the most extensive fine-scale biophysical sampling ever carried out on these two fronts;
  2. the successful launch of the first autonomous vehicle by Norway;
  3. the first current meter moorings ever deployed on the Jan Mayen Ridge, which in turn provided the first direct measurements of exchange between the Norwegian and Iceland seas over the Ridge;
  4. the first direct turbulence measurements in the vicinity of the Jan Mayen and the Polar fronts; and
  5. the first field studies of the direct effects of Emiliania huxleyi, a coccolithophore, on the optical properties of sea water in the Barents Sea.       

Unlike most temperate fronts, they were found to have strong horizontal gradients in temperature and salinity but relatively weak density gradients because of the density compensating nature of the Arctic and Atlantic water masses (Fer and Drinkwater, 2012; Våge et al., 2012).  Strong interleaving was evident as Atlantic waters intruded into the Arctic Water as well as Arctic into Atlantic waters along lines of constant density (isopynals), resulting in high vertical variability in the temperature, salinity profiles taken at the fronts (Fig. 5). The glider showed that these intrusions tended to be 1-5 km in length and 10-50m thick. The turbulence profiler data indicated slightly enhanced mixing in the vicinity of the fronts due to a combination of the vertical current shear caused by the intrusions and double diffusive processes, however, the turbulence levels were still relatively low (Fer and Drinkwater, 2012). The lack of any vertical circulation and this relatively weak mixing meant that there was no physical process to bring deeper waters into the surface layers.

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Figure 5. Temperature, salinity and density (sigma-t) across the Jan Mayen Front in the Norwegian Sea in June 2007 taken by an autonomous glider. Note the interleaving at the edge of the front in both temperature and salinity and the lack of any strong density gradient.

A major finding is the lack of high primary production at either front. Evidence for this came from several sources including nutrient data, light measurements, fluorescence measurements (Fig. 6), Fast Repition Rate Fluorescence data, plankton net samples, satellite data and growth data of benthic bivalves in the vicinity of the Polar Front (Borsheim and Drinkwater, 2012; Erga et al., 2012, Hancke et al., 2012).  The main influence of the fronts appears to be as biological boundaries between Arctic and Atlantic boreal species of both phytoplankton and zooplankton.  However, the front is “leaky” with some species found in both Arctic and Atlantic waters near the Front. This includes the important zooplankton species Calanus finmarchicus and C. glacialis. Data from Barents Sea indicate that zooplankton size is structured by the physics with smaller plankton in the front and increasing size of zooplankton towards the top of the Bank. 

A study of Emiliania huxleyi near the Barents Sea Front showed it was largely confined to Atlantic waters and that it reduced the light availability in the water column significantly (Hovland et al., 2012). Other bio-optical studies showed that the absorption of light is strongly frequency dependent and also that the coloured Dissolved Organic Matter (cDOM) in the Barents Sea is of marine rather than terrestrial origin (Hancke et al., 2012). The observations were used to develop a frequency-dependent model of light absorption rather than PAR values that can be used to better estimate primary production (Alver et al., 2012). Growth rings on the shells of bivalves in the Barents Sea were used to examine growth patterns in Atlantic, Arctic and frontal waters. The growth is a function of their food supply, which is produced near the surface and sinks to the sea floor. Growth rates below the Polar Front were surprisingly found to be lower than below either the Arctic or Atlantic waters (Carroll et al., in review).  

Mid-water trawls were taken to sample herring in the Norwegian Sea and capelin in the Barents Sea as a means of gaining insights into how these fish use the fronts to feed.  In the Norwegian Sea, the herring were found almost exclusively in the Atlantic waters, with few in Arctic waters.  However, diet studies suggested that they preyed upon some of the larger zooplankton generally found in Arctic waters. It is unclear whether the herring moved into the Arctic Water to feed and then quickly retreated into the warmer Atlantic Water to digest the food or whether they feed upon Arctic species that were transported through advection and mixing towards the Atlantic side of the front.  In the Barents Sea, on Storbanken, capelin were found in both Arctic and Atlantic waters. However, there was a size-dependent structure in their distribution with the younger and smaller capelin found in the frontal region and the larger, older capelin found on the Bank in Arctic waters. The similarity in the trend in the size of the zooplankton and fish suggests that the physical structure strongly influences the ecosystem structure. We have speculated that the presence of the small capelin in the front where the small zooplankton are located and the big capelin higher up on the Bank where the large zooplankton are found is likely due to size-dependent prey selection. That is, the fish are in the area where their prey is the right “bite-size”.    

A numerical model of the region’s physics was developed that showed relatively good agreement with location of the front although the horizontal resolution (< 1 km) and necessary vertical smoothing within the model did lead to some discrepancies with the hydrographic observations. The model showed large temporal variability in the density of bottom waters through brine rejection and subsequent advection of this heavier water along the slope of Spitsbergen Bank in the spring and into the summer, a result confirmed by hydrographic observations (Lien and Ådlandsvik, 2012). A new hypothesis was developed that this bottom-water induced stratification in spring, given sufficient light and nutrients, can initiate phytoplankton blooms although confirmation of this hypothesis will require new data (Lien and Ådlandsvik, 2012). 

Most temperate fronts exhibit high phytoplankton production throughout the spring and summer. However, at the Jan Mayen and Polar fronts such high phytoplankton production was not observed. This is because of the lack of strong density gradients and no associated vertical circulation. This, together with the absence of strong vertical mixing, results in a lack of nutrient replenishment after the initial phytoplankton bloom. Thus, in terms of primary production, the frontal regions are much like any other region in the Barents Sea with a typical spring bloom, declining to low levels of production once the nutrients are depleted.  The fronts in the Barents and Norwegian Seas showed many similarities. They are both passive with weak density gradients, reduced mixing and low primary production once the spring bloom declines. Both fronts are used by important species of commercial fish. It is clear from our results that further sampling of the fish and their prey will be required to come to definite conclusions as to how the fish use the fronts in their feeding migrations. 

A special issue on the NESSAR results is in progress with several papers available on line and several more in review or to be submitted.  It is expected that this issue will be published in 2013.

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Figure 6. Fluorescence data from the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea (Storbanken) in 2007. Note there is no increase in chlorophyll at either front and indeed in the Barents Sea it was a minimum in the vicinity of the front.  The high values in the Atlantic Water in the Barents Sea were due to the E. huxleyi bloom. 



Alver, M.O., K. Hancke, E. Sakshaug, D. Slagstad.  2012. A spectrally-resolved light propagation model for aquatic systems: Steps toward parameterizing primary production. Journal of Marine Systems. doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2012.03.007.

Borsheim, K.Y. and K.F. Drinkwater. 2012. Different temperature adaptation in Arctic and Atlantic heterotrophic bacteria in the Barents Sea polar Front region. Journal of Marine Systems (in review).

Carroll, M.L., W.G. Ambrose, Jr., W.L. Locke, S.K. Ryan and B.J. Johnson. 2012. Bivalve growth rate and isotopic variability across the Barents Sea Polar Front. Journal of Marine Systems. (in revision).

Erga, S.R., N. Ssebiyonga, B. Hamre, Ø. Frette, E. Hovland, K. Drinkwater, and F. Rey. 2012.  Environmental control of phytoplankton distribution and photosynthetic capacity at the Jan Mayen Front in the Norwegian Sea. Journal of Marine Systems. doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2012.01.006.

Fer, I. and K. Drinkwater.  2012.  Mixing in the Barents Sea Polar Front near Hopen in spring.  Journal of Marine Systems. doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2012.01.005.

Hancke, K., E.K. Hovland, Z. Volent, R. Pettersen, G. Johnsen, M. Moline, E. Sakshaug. 2012. Optical properties of CDOM across the Polar Front in the Barents Sea: Origin, distribution and significance, Journal of Marine Systems. doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2012.06.006.

Hovland, E.K., K. Hancke, M.O. Alver, J. Høkedal, M. Moline, K. Drinkwater, E. Sakshaug, and G. Johnsen. 2012. Measured and modeled optical impact of an Emiliania huxleyi bloom in the frontal region of the central Barents Sea. Journal of Marine Systems. doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2012.07.002.

 Lien, V.S., Ådlandsvik, B., 2011, Bottom water formation as a primer for spring-blooms on Spitsbergenbanken? J. Mar. Syst., doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2011.11.018

Våge, S., S. Basedow, K. Tande, M. Zhou. 2012. Physical structure of the Barents Sea Polar Front near Storbanken in August 2007, Journal of Marine Systems. doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2011.11.019

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Climate change impacts on the survival of larval cod

Trond Kristiansen, Charles Stock, Ken Drinkwater, Enrique N. Curchitser

Current state

Over the last several decades the oceans have continued to warm due to climate change caused by anthropogenic activity (IPCC, 2007).  New studies have shown that western boundary currents are warming two to three times faster than the global mean surface ocean warming rate (Wu et al., 2012), Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly (Overland &  Wang, 2010), and the primary productivity is estimated to decrease by 10-20% globally (Steinacher et al., 2010).  The oceans are experiencing rapid physical and biological changes that will have consequences for marine life, including commercial fisheries production. 


In a new study, a group of researchers from Norway (Institute of Marine Research) and the USA (NOAA, Rutgers University) used simulations from the next-generation IPCC Earth System Model (NOAA GFDL ESM2.1) to assess how future changes in ocean temperature and primary production may affect the metabolic needs, growth potential, and survival probability of larval Atlantic cod (Kristiansen et al., In review).  The physical and environmental data were incorporated into a mechanistic individual-based model (IBM) that was used to simulate the critical early phases in the life of larval Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in a changing environment. Model simulations revealed to what extent future potential survival probability and thereby recruitment of Atlantic cod could change due to spatial and temporal changes in ocean temperature and primary productivity. Predicted changes in phytoplankton production were used to estimate zooplankton abundance. With these models, the researchers generated survival scenarios for Atlantic cod across the North Atlantic to the year 2100. 


The analysis compared five different modeled cod populations across the North Atlantic: Georges Bank, West Greenland, Iceland, the North Sea, and Lofoten.  Climate change had a negative effect on larval survival at all five spawning grounds (Fig. 7). Reduced prey resources combined with increased ocean temperatures (Fig. 8) forced the larval fish to take higher risks to sustain high feeding rates.  This behavioural response helps larvae to maintain growth rates for all sites except West Greenland despite reduced prey levels.  However, it also makes them more vulnerable to predation, which leads to significant reductions in survival probability in all five regions unless piscivore biomass also declines in proportion to mesozooplankton biomass. In contrast to past observed responses to climate variability in which warm anomalies led to better recruitment in cold-water stocks, we also found that reduced prey availability under climate change causes higher temperatures to have a negative impact on larval survival throughout the cod range.  Climate change predictions suggest lowered prey resources in the North Atlantic, which combined with higher metabolic costs due to higher temperatures outweigh the advantages of higher growth potential, leading to negative effects on northern cod stocks. To summarize, we believe that climate change may have significant negative impacts on the survival of larval cod in the North Atlantic (Kristiansen et al., In review).


Figure 7. The modeled survival probability averaged over 50 year periods: 1950-1999, 2000-2049, and 2050-2099 for a) Georges Bank, b) North Sea, c) West Greenland, d) Iceland, e) Lofoten.


Figure 8. Modeled temperature anomalies for the North Atlantic for the period 2000-2050 (a) relative to 1950-2000, and 2050-2100 relative to 1950-2000 (b).



IPCC (2007) Climate Change 2007: the Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (eds Solomon S, D. , Qin M, Manning Z, Chen M, Marquis KB, Averyt MT, Miller HL) pp Page, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

Kristiansen T., Stock C., Drinkwater K., Curchitser E. (In review) Mechanistic insights into the effects of climate change on larval cod. Global Change Biology.

Overland J. E., Wang M. (2010) Large-scale atmospheric circulation changes are associated with the recent loss of Arctic sea ice. Tellus,62A, 1-9.

Steinacher M., Joos F., Frolicher T. L., Bopp L., Cadule P., Cocco V., . . . Segschnedier J. (2010) Projected 21st century decrease in marine productivity: a multi-model analysis. Biogeosciences,7, 979-1005.

Wu L., Cai W., Zhang L., Nakamura H., Timmermann A., Joyce T., . . . Giese B. S. (2012) Enhanced warming over the global subtropi-cal western boundary currents. Nature Climate Change.

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Rapid acidification of the Eastern Pacific Ocean

The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is causing the acidity of the oceans to increase. Scientists at ETH Zurich have investigated how the acidity along the west coast of the USA will develop until the year 2050. They expect considerable changes in the ecosystem.

The waters off the west coast of the USA are known for their particularly large wealth of fauna and flora. This is due to the alongshore wind driving the surface water away from the coast, causing the upwelling of nutrient-rich water from depths. However, this upwelling process makes the nearshore waters also generally low in pH (higher acidity). As a result, these systems are particularly prone to the worldwide phenomenon of ocean acidification.

The acidification of the seawater is a direct consequence of the increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, since oceans absorb about one third of the carbon dioxide produced by mankind. They thus function as an important carbon sink. However, the CO2 affects the chemical composition of the oceans. It dissolves in seawater and increases its acidity, thereby reducing the saturation level with regard to the mineral calcium carbonate.

If the water is undersaturated, calcium carbonate spontaneously dissolves and new calcium carbonate can be formed only if it is protected from the surrounding sea water. This could have serious consequences for many organisms, particularly for those that form shells or skeletons out of calcium carbonate, such as mussels and corals.

Projection using a variety of climate scenarios

Scientists working with Nicolas Gruber, a professor at the Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at ETH Zurich, have now investigated how the acidity and the degree of carbonate saturation along the west coast of the USA will develop in the future. Using a high-resolution model, they first simulated the circulation of the area, in particular the upwelling processes. Then they combined this physical model with models of the ecosystems and of the carbon cycle, taking into consideration especially the exchange of CO2 with the atmosphere. By doing so, they were able to create projections for different atmospheric CO2 scenarios until the year 2050. They are presenting their findings in the current issue of Science magazine.


The simulations show that even in an optimistic CO2 scenario, the saturation state of carbonate drops rapidly in the regions studied, passing the important threshold where waters go from super- to undersaturated conditions. While today the water masses in the top 200 meters are nearly always supersaturated, in 20 to 30 years, such water masses will only be found in the top 60 meters during the summer. In 2050, the seawater will no longer have a year-round sufficient saturation state. This is especially concerning since many organisms live in the top 100 meters of the water.

pH value of 7.8 by the mid-century

The acidification is most clearly manifesting itself in the nearshore within 10 kilometres of the coast. There, the pH value will drop to 7.8 by 2050. “Considerable changes in the ecosystem along the west coast of the USA are bound to occur,” explains Dr. Gruber. However, the scientists can’t predict yet how these ecosystem changes will look like in detail. Although they are able to calculate the chemical and physical aspects of ocean acidification very precisely, not enough is known about the sensitivity of the different organisms. Not all organisms suffer equally from the ocean acidification, and a few species may even profit from it. Nevertheless, mussels, particularly in their early stages, appear to be among those most strongly impacted.

The scientists are concerned that ocean acidification is increasing so rapidly. Nicolas Gruber thinks that the undersaturation limit will be reached within the next 20 to 30 years. Considering how much the CO2 emissions have increased in the last years, the development would be hard to stop: “Our study is an example of how mankind is about to exhaust the limits of what an ecosystem can tolerate.”



Gruber N, Hauri C, Lachkar Z, Loher D, Frölicher T, Plattner G-K. Rapid progression of ocean acidification in the California Current System. Science, published online June 14, 2012.

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Ocean acidification - A Norwegian perspective

Børsheim Knut Yngve

Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway

Worldwide combustion of fossil fuels is responsible for the steady increase of CO2 in both the atmosphere and the oceans. Changes such as global warming and ocean acidification are thus directly linked to Norway’s biggest income earner - the exploitation of oil and gas. In order to gain political momentum for mitigation efforts it is necessary to convince the general public that the benefits are worth the cost. It seems that generally most people in Norway agree that global warming is a threat to the welfare of the world as we know it today. However, many Scandinavians are descendants of the Vikings, with myths and stories from ancient times deeply embedded in their past. In Norse tradition, hell and the end of the world were not associated with heat and flames, but rather with perpetual cold, known as the Fimbul winter. While most Norwegians nowadays understand that a 2˚C average warming is very problematic, intrinsically, the thought of warmer weather is rather appealing.

With increasing acidification of the oceans, opinions may change. Norway’s third largest export is fish. In a healthy ocean properly managed fisheries exploit self-replicating resources that would be expected to be around long after oil and gas resources are depleted. That ocean acidification presents a potentially large disturbance for marine ecosystem structure and functioning, is easier to perceive as a threat than a supposedly small increase in temperature. Since about 2009 there has been an increase in public awareness of the problem of ocean acidification. The official response has included a new monitoring program, and the construction of laboratory facilities dedicated to the study of the biological effects of increasing ocean acidification.

The extent of Norway´s marine resources stretches from the North Sea to the Barents Sea. Since 2009 the carbon chemistry has been monitored by sampling water through the water column along three sections from nearshore to offshore waters. These sections cross the Skagerrak of the Northern North Sea, the Norwegian Sea off Lofoten, and in the Barents Sea opening between northern Norway and Bjørnøya. In addition, surface waters are monitored from commercial vessels between Tromsø and Longyearbyen on Svalbard, and between Oslo and Kiel. One of the research vessels of the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Bergen also monitors pCO2 on most of its expeditions. This program is one of the first dedicated national ocean acidification monitoring efforts.

Information about increasing ocean acidification over time is of little value unless we can link ocean carbon chemistry to biological responses through predicted future scenarios. A large number of experiments have used short- or long-term exposure of various marine organisms to simulated future carbon chemistry. Technically, such experiments require facilities with a stable supply of high quality seawater and equipment to manipulate and monitor seawater carbon chemistry. Two biological stations, initially established by IMR in the 1980s to serve the research needs of the aquaculture industry, have been modified for ocean carbon chemistry experiments. The Matre Station is dedicated to the study of large organisms, such as shoals of fish. For example, mackerel and lobsters have been exposed to varying ocean carbon chemistry. The large tanks and number of replicate lines of varying water quality at this facility are one of the best constructions for this kind of research worldwide. The facility still has capacity for more projects and it is hoped that collaborative efforts will enable other scientists from around the world to take advantage of these excellent facilities.

The Austevoll Station is dedicated to plankton studies. A laboratory for ocean acidification research was designed so that four water types are fed into three identical systems. Three replicates of each water type are run simultaneously in each system. The pH of each water type is carefully controlled, and the carbon system of the water is monitored using high precision total alkalinity and total inorganic carbon determination, along with pH measured by spectrophotometry. The main goal is to investigate the effect of ocean acidification on key species in Norwegian waters. These experiments include copepods, krill, and fish larvae. Experiments with phytoplankton are also underway.

Models indicate that impacts of ocean acidification will develop earliest at high latitudes. It is therefore important that research efforts on the effects and magnitude of ocean acidification continue, in order to provide sound advice to policy makers and increase public awareness. However, there is only one way to slow down ocean acidification, and that is through the deceleration of the release of CO2 to the atmosphere.

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Dr. Bernard Avril: the new Executive Officer of IMBER 

Dr. Bernard Avril joined IMBER as the Executive Officer of the International Project Office on 4 June 2012.
AVRIL Bernard

Dr. Bernard Avril

A note from Bernard Avril

As mentioned in the May 2012 IMBER Update newsletter, the IMBER International Project Office (IPO) recently relocated from Brest in France to the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Bergen in Norway. This relocation to Norway was greatly facilitated by the dedicated and enthusiastic commitment of Lisa Maddison, Ken Drinkwater (IMBER SSC member based at IMR), Einar Svenden and other Directors at IMR). The IPO now has its full staff compliment. It includes Lisa Maddison as Deputy Executive Officer, Turid Loddengaard and Anita Jacobsen as part-time administrative assistants, and I started as Executive Officer in early June 2012.

My academic background is in marine biogeochemistry, bio-optics and ecology. Before coming to IMBER, I was Science Officer specialising in Environmental Sciences, Marine Sciences, Geosciences and Sustainability Research at the European Science Foundation, where I coordinated a foresight initiative on the Responses to Environmental and Societal Challenges for our Unstable Earth (RESCUE). Prior to that, I was the Deputy Executive Director of the International Project Office for the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS), which was located at the University of Bergen in Norway and Assistant Project Manager of the EC-funded Ocean Margin Exchange (OMEX) Phase II Project at the Free University Brussels in Belgium. I have a strong interest in integrated research and transdisciplinary education, especially in the fields of Earth system science and in the context of transitions towards sustainability.

My main objective as Executive Officer is to facilitate the strengthening, visibility and development and further expansion of the IMBER research community, in order to ensure the best IMBER research delivery possible. This could be achieved by building on the existing successful project activities, such as the IMBIZOs and ClimECO summer schools, the close examination and pro-active development of the IMBER structure and functioning, especially through new strategic partnerships and the preparation of the next phase of IMBER. The IMBER Open Science Conference 2014 (to be held in Bergen, Norway, 23-27 June 2014) is a key milestone in this process. I will also make sure that the IPO team continues to provide high-quality service to the IMBER research community as it did under the previous leaderships of Sylvie Roy and Lisa Maddison.

I will also bring my own expertise, practices and network into the current challenging phase of IMBER, especially with the changing global research landscape in our field, as illustrated by several new or developing initiatives such as the emerging “Future Earth – Research for Global Sustainability” research framework, the IGFA “Belmont Challenge: A Global, Environmental Research Mission for Sustainability”, the forthcoming UN World Ocean Assessment, the forthcoming IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, and, the developing Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

I look forward to working with the IMBER Scientific Steering Committee’s Chair and members, the IPO staff, the Chairs of Regional Programmes, Working Groups, Task Teams and Committees and endorsed projects, and with our international (IGBP and SCOR) and national (Research Council of Norway and IMR) and sponsors, that are kindly acknowledged and thanked for their continuing support.

On a personal note, I would like to say that it has been an unusual but nice experience for me to return to Bergen and to join the IPO of an IGBP-SCOR core project, eight years after the completion of the JGOFS project. Coming back to the IGBP and SCOR-related research communities is somehow like coming back home for me. I am also very glad to re-connect with the very active marine research community that exists in Bergen, and to be back to the beautiful marine and mountainous surroundings of Bergen and Hordaland.

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IMBER future events

IMBIZO III (28-31 January 2013, Goa, India)

  • The future of marine biogeochemistry, ecosystems and societies.
    Multi-dimensional approaches to the challenges of global change in continental margins and open ocean systems.
  • Registrants will be informed on 15 October 2012 whether their applications to attend have been successful
  • For more info, please visit IMBIZO lll website… 

The 2nd CLIOTOP Symposium (11-15 February 2013, Noumea, New Caledonia)

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Early Career scientist opportunities

International training course: "Ocean hazards: Observation, Projection, and Adaption" (1-4 November 2012, Qingdao, China)

Deadline for application: 20 September 2012

Contact: Prof. Xianyao Chen (chenxy@fio.org.cn)

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List of acronyms

  • APN: Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research
  • CBTT: Capacity Building Task Team
  • ClimECO: Climate and Ecosystems
  • CLIOTOP: CLimate Impacts on Oceanic Top Predators
  • CSIRO: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
  • ECNU: East China Normal University
  • ESSAR: Ecosystem Studies of Subarctic and Arctic Regions
  • ESSAS: Ecosystem Studies of Sub-Arctic Seas
  • IGBP: International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
  • IMR: Institute of Marine Research
  • IOC/WESTPAC: Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Sub-commission for the Western Pacific
  • IPBES: Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
  • IPO: International Project Office
  • JGOFS: Joint Global Ocean Flux Study
  • LSCE: Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et l'Environnement
  • NCAR: National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • NESSAR: Norwegian component of ESSAR
  • NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • OMEX: Ocean Margin Exchange
  • POGO: Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans
  • RESCUE: Responses to Environmental and Societal Challenges for our Unstable Earth
  • SCOR: Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research
  • SKLEC: State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research
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Should you wish to contribute an article for the IMBER Update, please contact Lisa Maddison


Published by IMBER

Editors: IMBER IPO

ISSN 1951-610X