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Arctic Marine System Ecology and Climate Change



Course format On-site
Date 2020-08-17 - 2020-11-05
Entry level Bachelor

Course content

The course provides an introduction to marine system ecology and climate change in the Arctic Ocean including its shelf seas and central basins. It describes the physics of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas, for both water and ice, and how climate change alters them. The course introduces biological communities and key organisms, life history strategies, habitats and ecosystems of the marine Arctic. Coupling between biological communities and habitats are discussed with respect to energy flow and in terms of how physical processes determine the conditions for biota and their productivity, today and in the near future. Students will be introduced to a wide range of examples of system ecological response to climate change in the Arctic Ocean, ranging from microbial organisms to marine mammals, and including biogeochemical cycles. In addition, management regimes in the Arctic are discussed in terms of their influence on the marine system. The course is taught by a large number of lecturers who have their research focus in the topic they lecture on.


Local admission, application code 9371 - - Master`s level singular course. Admission requires a Bachelor`s degree (180 ECTS) or equivalent qualification, with a major in biology of minimum 80 ECTS.

Recommended skills corresponding to courses Bio-2010 Marine Ecology and Bio-2516 Ocean climate

Learning outcomes


At the end of the course, the student will:

  • be able to evaluate the physical environment in the Arctic Ocean with respect to hydrography, currents, and sea ice cover, and discuss the role of physical drivers for the Arctic marine ecosystem.
  • be familiar with the spatial and seasonal patterns of nutrient concentrations in high latitudes and be able to discuss changes in the nutrient availability in a warming Arctic.
  • be able to explain the significance of sea ice and debate the implication of sea ice cover changes to the biodiversity and carbon cycling in the Arctic.
  • be familiar with the basics of microbial cycling and be able to define the central dogma of molecular biology and relate protein function to ecology in the Arctic Ocean.
  • have insight into the primary production in high latitudes and be able to explain how climate change may affect primary production.
  • have developed an understanding of the habitat structure and biological communities in the sea ice, water column and at the seafloor of the Arctic, from microbes to mammals, and be able to evaluate how a warming Arctic impacts both habitat and communities.
  • be familiar with the term "life history strategy" and be able to discuss this term on the example of the key species Calanus in the Arctic and the Atlantic ecosystem.
  • understand the concepts of diel vertical migrations (DVM) in the Arctic, be familiar with the proximate and ultimate factors regulating DVM, and be able to discuss how these change according to seasons.
  • be able to understand and explain the role and regulation of vertical flux and other forms of cryo-pelagic-benthic coupling and evaluate how these processes are may be impacted by climate change.
  • understand and be able to discuss the role of parasites in the Arctic ecosystem, with emphasis on the Barents Sea.
  • be able to explain the characteristics of mass flows in fjord and coastal Arctic ecosystems, and to elaborate on how external factors (e.g., invasive species, climate change) may change the mass flows.
  • be able to describe and justify the current fish distribution in the Arctic Ocean and potential future changes with regard to increasing ocean temperature and decreasing sea ice.
  • be able to evaluate the relationship between polar cod and sea ice, and the changes in their abundance because of climate warming and increased competition/predation.
  • have an understanding of the role of marine mammal top-predators in sub-Arctic/Arctic ecosystems and be able to discuss potential changes in a warming Arctic.
  • be able to explain how ecosystem comparisons can contribute to understanding ecosystem structure and functioning.
  • understand and be able to discuss basics of management regimes related to the Arctic Ocean.


At the end of the course, the student will:

  • have the ability to evaluate and discuss scientific topics related to a variety of processes and dynamics in the Arctic marine environment.
  • be able to understand and critically reflect on literature about the Arctic ecosystem, as well as present this information orally (or in form for an essay, for PhD students).
  • be aware of and be able to discuss the current understanding how climate and anthropogenic impact can influence Arctic marine ecosystems.

General competence

At the end of the course, the student will:

  • be able to work independently with scientific literature.
  • have refined the ability of critical thinking, by discussing scientific literature with lecturers and fellow students.
  • be able to integrate ecosystem knowledge by combining information from single studies of separate compartments and their couplings.
  • have improved their ability to work with fellow students through various group work activities during the seminars


ISCED Categories

Conservation and environmental management
Physical and chemical oceanography