New Pan-Arctic Synthesis Paper Published in Nature Reviews

More than 10 PerCS-Net members collaborated on a recent review paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment in January 2022 highlighting the drivers, dynamics and impacts of changing Arctic coasts. The synthesis, led by Anna Irrgang from the Alfred Wegener Institute, provides an overview of the diversity of Arctic coasts, discusses drivers of coastal change and describes their vulnerability to climate change, highlights the changes that have been observed during the last seven decades, and discusses the impact on the natural and human environment. The paper synthesizes our current knowledge in a forward-looking manner by identifying future research to help address an increasingly dynamic arctic coastal system. The paper also lays the foundation for the development of the second version of the Arctic Coastal Dynamics database.

The article is one of a portfolio of papers on Permafrost in a warming world that examine the physical, biogeochemical, and ecosystem changes related to permafrost thaw and the associated impacts. The collection was published online in Nature on January 11. While some of the papers require a subscription to access, several are open access publications.


Arctic coasts are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and the loss of permafrost, sea ice and glaciers. Assessing the influence of anthropogenic warming on Arctic coastal dynamics, however, is challenged by the limited availability of observational, oceanographic and environmental data. Yet, with the majority of permafrost coasts being erosive, coupled with projected intensification of erosion and flooding, understanding these changes is critical. In this Review, we describe the morphological diversity of Arctic coasts, discuss important drivers of coastal change, explain the specific sensitivity of Arctic coasts to climate change and provide an overview of pan-Arctic shoreline change and its multifaceted impacts. Arctic coastal changes impact the human environment by threatening coastal settlements, infrastructure, cultural sites and archaeological remains. Changing sediment fluxes also impact the natural environment through carbon, nutrient and pollutant release on a magnitude that remains difficult to predict. Increasing transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration efforts will build the foundation for identifying sustainable solutions and adaptation strategies to reduce future risks for those living on, working at and visiting the rapidly changing Arctic coast.

Map of Arctic coastal type, permafrost distribution and sea-ice extent.

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