Arctic Circumpolar Coastal Observatory Network (ACCO-Net)
The coastal zone is the interface at land-ocean exchanges in the Arctic are mediated and it is the region of most high-latitude human activities. The coastal margin hosts complex interactions of marine, terrestrial and atmospheric processes that are extremely vulnerable to predicted environmental changes and anthropogenic stressors. These coasts are typically permafrost-dominated and suffer from rapid erosion with serious implications for ecosystems and communities (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) – key finding #5). Changes in the coastal zone will not only affect regional biological and human systems, but are also likely to influence the global system though the degradation of coastal and offshore permafrost, which can lead to the release of greenhouse gases (GHG). To detect and quantify trajectories in coastal systems, their components must first be monitored. A coordinated monitoring programme incorporating diverse regions and providing site-specific, fine-scale baseline and time-series data will yield maximum value, facilitating local and circum-arctic studies, such as validation of multi-scale biodiversity and coastal community models. To address these issues, it is proposed that an internationally coordinated circum-arctic network of coastal observatories (~15 key sites) be established within the IPY 2007-2008 framework, and based on ecoregion representation criteria. The sites would be locations for multi-disciplinary, multi-resolution studies set within a broader eco- and socio-regional frame of reference and would include sensitive areas with varying degrees of human impact. Site selection would be coordinated with local communities and would build upon existing monitoring programmes and data availability. The recommended strategy is outlined in five steps: (1) Initial site characterisation and representation assessment: (a) acquisition of comprehensive, high-resolution imagery of the circum-arctic coastline, (b) physical (atmospheric, terrestrial and marine conditions), (c) ecological (marine and terrestrial classification, habitat mapping, assessment of biodiversity indicators and components), (d) socio-economic (general situation, interaction of resource users, assessment of resources used, local knowledge of coastal processes, state of legal and administrative regulations); (2) Monitoring of changes: (a) physical (atmospheric and oceanographic forcing, permafrost parameters, morphology), (b) ecological (habitats, biodiversity, environmental quality), (c) socio-economic (industrial production, plans and potential constraints for development, quality of life, local economy, population and demography, social problems of native peoples); (3) Data analysis: (a) detection of change, (b) identification of interdependencies amongst physical, biological, social, and ecological parameters; (4) Data management: (a) metadata standards, (b) arctic spatial data infrastructure, (c) web accessible databases and maps, (d) data accessibility to local communities; (5) Synthesis: formulation of models at multiple levels (conceptual to numerical) incorporating interdependent physical, biological and environmental changes in response to natural and anthropogenic forcing, development of response strategies.