Arctic Ocean Biodiversity is a Census of Marine Life project aimed at coordinating research efforts examining the diversity in each of the three major realms: sea ice, water column and sea floor, including fish, mammals & birds. This program will consolidate what is known and fill remaining gaps in our knowledge: it leads the Arctic Ocean diversity cluster within the International Polar Year.
The Arctic Ocean is unique. It is the most extreme ocean in regard to the seasonality of light and its year-round existing ice cover. Arctic seas hold a multitude of unique life forms highly adapted in their life history, ecology and physiology to the extreme and seasonal conditions of this environment. Knowledge of what lives in the Arctic Ocean is limited due to the logistical challenges imposed by its multiyear ice and inhospitable climate.
The Arctic Ocean is the region where the impacts of climate change are strongest expressed. On-going climate warming and reduction in sea ice makes the effort to identify the diversity of its life an urgent issue. Species level information is essential to discussions on climate change or human impact. These effects can only be detected through long-term monitoring of key species, communities and processes. The availability of solid baseline data is crucial.