Climate change impacts on sea-ice ecosystems and associated ecosystem services

Nadja S. Steiner*, J. Bowman, K. Campbell, M. Chierici, E. Eronen-Rasimus, M. Falardeau, H. Flores, A. Fransson, H. Herr, Stephen J. Insley, Hanna M. Kauko, D. Lannuzel, L. Loseto, A. Lynnes, A. Majewski, Klaus M. Meiners, Lisa A. Miller, Loic N. Michel, S. Moreau, M. NackeD. Nomura, L. Tedesco, J.A. van Franeker, Maria A. van Leeuwe, P. Wongpan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


A rigorous synthesis of the sea-ice ecosystem and linked ecosystem services highlights that the sea-ice ecosystem supports all 4 ecosystem service categories, that sea-ice ecosystems meet the criteria for ecologically or biologically significant marine areas, that global emissions driving climate change are directly linked to the demise of sea-ice ecosystems and its ecosystem services, and that the sea-ice ecosystem deserves specific attention in the evaluation of marine protected area planning. The synthesis outlines (1) supporting services, provided in form of habitat, including feeding grounds and nurseries for microbes, meiofauna, fish, birds and mammals (particularly the key species Arctic cod, Boreogadus saida, and Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, which are tightly linked to the sea-ice ecosystem and transfer carbon from
sea-ice primary producers to higher trophic level fish, mammal species and humans); (2) provisioning services through harvesting and medicinal and genetic resources; (3) cultural services through Indigenous and local knowledge systems, cultural identity and spirituality, and via cultural activities, tourism and research; (4) (climate) regulating services through light regulation, the production of biogenic aerosols, halogen oxidation and the release or uptake of greenhouse gases, for example, carbon dioxide. The ongoing changes in the polar
regions have strong impacts on sea-ice ecosystems and associated ecosystem services. While the response of sea-ice–associated primary production to environmental change is regionally variable, the effect on iceassociated mammals and birds is predominantly negative, subsequently impacting human harvesting and cultural services in both polar regions. Conservation can help protect some species and functions. However, the key mitigation measure that can slow the transition to a strictly seasonal ice cover in the Arctic Ocean,
reduce the overall loss of sea-ice habitats from the ocean, and thus preserve the unique ecosystem services provided by sea ice and their contributions to human well-being is a reduction in carbon emissions
Original languageEnglish
Article number00007
JournalElementa: Science of Anthropocene
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2021


  • Sea-ice ecosystem
  • Ecosystem services
  • EBSA
  • Polar Regions
  • Climate change
  • Marine protected area


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