London: Climate change and increased erosion are pushing back the Arctic coastline by half a metre every year.
This implies substantial changes for Arctic ecosystems near the coast and the population living there, says a new study.
The research was conducted by a consortium of over 30 scientists from 10 countries, including those from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and from the Helmholtz Centre in Germany.
They jointly investigated over 100,000 kilometres and thus a fourth of all Arctic coasts and their results have now been published for the first time, reports the journal Estuaries and Coasts.
Two-thirds of the Arctic coasts do not consist of rock, but of frozen soft substrate (permafrost). And precisely these coasts are extremely hard hit by erosion. As a rule, Arctic regions are quite thinly populated.
"The Arctic is developing more and more into a mirror of various drivers of global change and into a focal point of national and worldwide economic interest," says Hartwig Kremer, head of the joint project Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ), according to a Wegner Institute statement.
The changes are particularly dramatic in the Laptev, East Siberian and Beaufort Seas, where coastal erosion rates reach more than eight metres a year in some cases.
Since around a third of the world`s coasts are located in the Arctic permafrost, coastal erosion may affect enormous areas in future.
Up to now, they have been protected against the eroding force of the waves by large sea ice areas. Due to the continuous decline in sea ice, this protection is jeopardised.