Climate change, marine fisheries and conservation in West Greenland

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Mathematics and Statistics


Throughout history, back to at least 2500 BC [1], the survival of human communities in West Greenland has been closely linked to the marine ecosystem and its living resources (fish, marine mammals, seabirds and polar bears). Even today, the economy is almost entirely dependent on fishing - previously for Atlantic cod but now almost entirely shrimps [2,3]. However the region is facing challenging impacts from climate warming and melting of the Greenland icecap, leading to likely trade-offs between fisheries and wildlife. Quantitatively assessing these impacts requires dynamic mathematical models. This project will implement a dynamic ecosystem model for the region, driven by climate change scenarios, which represents a unique training and research opportunity for a motivated PhD student.

The project will implement the StrathE2EPolar food web model [4] for the West Greenland marine ecosystem. The questions to be answered by the project are:
- How will fisheries management strategies need to change in the future to ensure sustainability, and what will this mean for indigenous human communities?
- What is the sensitivity of high trophic levels (birds, pinnipeds, cetaceans and maritime mammals) to the indirect (food web mediated) effects of fishing, and how will this be affected by changing environmental conditions?
- What trade-offs between harvesting and wildlife conservation may emerge as a result of climate change?

A StrathE2EPolar model for the Barents Sea [4] and East Greenland regions, developed in the NERC Changing Arctic Ocean Programme (available as a package for the R statistical programming environment, will provide the launch-pad for the studentship. StrathE2EPolar includes an ecology model and a coupled fishing fleet model. Chemical and biological functional guilds in the ecology model span detritus, nitrate and ammonia, through micro-plankton, benthos and fish, to high level predators (birds, pinnipeds, cetaceans and polar bears). The environmental input data required to implement StrathE2EPolar for decadal intervals will be assembled by downscaling from existing outputs of the NEMO-MEDUA earth system model [5] run from 1980-2100 using RCP 8.5 and 2.6 greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. The student will be trained to develop and implement new mathematical formulations to represent polar-specific ecology in StrathE2EPolar, and implement them in the code.

1. Olsen,B. (1998). Acta Borealia, 15:2, 81-128.
2. Buch, E., et al. (2004). Journal of Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Science, 34: 13-28.
3. Garde,E. (2013). The West Greenland shelf. WWF - Denmark. 56pp.
4. Heath, M.R. et al. (2021). Ambio, Changing Arctic Ocean Special Issue,
5. Yool, A. et al. (2015). Journal of Geophysical Research, Oceans 120: 7771-7790.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007342/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2027
2775340 Studentship NE/S007342/1 01/10/2022 31/03/2026 Matthew Hatton