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National Research Council Report Examines Emerging Questions About the Changing Arctic

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A National Research Council report released today studied how rapid changes in the Arctic's climate, ecosystems, and communities are prompting the need for new research that can explore these shifts.

The report, The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions, identifies resources and strategies for pursuing this research, which will require collaboration among scientific disciplines, agencies, the private sector, and policymakers. The term “anthropocene” refers to the increasing human influence on the planet.

“From a conservation point of view, the questions in this report highlight the need for continued research into the climatic, environmental, and societal forces that are driving change in the Arctic and the consequences for the environment and for human societies,” said Henry Huntington, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and Arctic science director for The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We need to greatly improve our monitoring capabilities, both to detect change quickly and to gain insight into what it means.

"In my opinion, the level of uncertainty that is inevitable in this rapidly changing system means that we need to be cautious about new human activities in the Arctic so that we do not cause harm.”

The 178-page report examined five areas of research: the evolving Arctic, or implications of reduced ice and snow cover for ecosystems and societies; the hidden Arctic, or a study of areas previously inaccessible; the connected Arctic, or its relationship to the rest of the globe through atmospheric and ocean circulation, species migrations, and societal interactions; the managed Arctic, or the impact of increased global interest in fossil fuels, fisheries, minerals, and tourism; and the undetermined Arctic, or the role of the research community and emerging questions.

The U.S. Arctic Research Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution sponsored the study. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

For more information, visit http://national-academies.org.

Read or download the report at nap.edu.