The Arctic marine ecosystem contains multiple elements that present alternative states. The most obvious of which is an Arctic Ocean largely covered by an ice sheet in summer versus one largely devoid of such cover. Ecosystems under pressure typically shift between such alternative states in an abrupt, rather than smooth manner, with the level of forcing required for shifting this status termed threshold or tipping point. Loss of Arctic ice due to anthropogenic climate change is accelerating, with the extent of Arctic sea ice displaying increased variance at present, a leading indicator of the proximity of a possible tipping point. Reduced ice extent is expected, in turn, to trigger a number of additional tipping elements, physical, chemical, and biological, in motion, with potentially large impacts on the Arctic marine ecosystem.
KeywordsArctic Tipping points Ecosystem Non-linearity Ice Plankton
This is a contribution to the Arctic Tipping Points project (www.eu-atp.org) funded by FP7 of the European Union (contract #226248).
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