ESSAS - Ecosystem Studies of Subarctic and Arctic Seas

Acronyms and Links


Integrated Marine Biochemistry and Ecosystem Research
IMBER research seeks to identify the mechanisms by which marine life influences marine biogeochemistry cycles, and how these, in turn, influence marine ecosystems. As of


Ecosystem Studies of Sub-Arctic Seas
ESSAS conducts research to compare, quantify, and predict the impact of climate variability and global change on the productivity and sustainability of Sub-Arctic marine ecosystems.


•  ESSAS International Project Office


•  ESSAS Scientific Steering Committee 



1: Regional Climate Prediction
A Goal of Working Group 1 is to provide quantitative estimates of the magnitude and uncertainty of future climate change for the ESSAS regions, and the frequency distribution of natural variability

2: Bio-physical Coupling
A Goal of the Working Group 2 is to determine how climate-driven variability in physical conditions and processes in the ocean will affect the organisms that make up marine ecosystems and thus the transfer of energy and material through sub-arctic marine ecosystems.

3: Modeling Ecosystem Response
The goal of Working Group 3 is to develop conceptual, mechanistic/process, statistical/empirical, and simulation models to facilitate comparison of ESSAS ecosystems and to forecast the impacts of climate change on ecosystem structure and function in multiple ESSAS ecosystems.

4: Climate & Interactions Among Top Predators
The main goal of Working Group 4 is to assess the effects of ocean climate variation and fishing on the interactions between gadoid fishes and crustaceans by conducting a comparative study across multiple sub-arctic marine ecosystems




N-ESSAS (Norway)

The overall goal of NESSAS is to quantify the impact of climate variability and global change on the structure and function of the Barents Sea marine ecosystem in order to predict the ecosystem response to possible future climate change and its possible economic impact. NESSAS activities have included:
• Global ROMS model developed with hind-casts back to 1958
• Storm track database developed and role of storms on sea ice published
• Studies on the heat budget of the Barents Sea
• Investigations of effects of light on phytoplankton production
• Model hind-casts of phytoplankton production back to 1980
• Response of marine ecosystem around Norway to climate change
• Socio-economic consequences of climate change
• Participation in comparative studies within ESSAS


J-ESSAS (Japan)

The overall goal of J-ESSAS is to quantify the impact of climate variability on the structure and function of the Oyashio marine ecosystem in order to predict the ecosystem response to possible future climate change and its possible economic impact. J-ESSAS has 5 year funding from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the Japanese Environment Agency.
J-ESSAS research foci include:
• Effects of Oyashio variability on ELS of pollock
• Relative importance of environment and plankton on pelagic and demersal fish in the Oyashio Shelf region
• Climate effects on walleye pollock, salmon, squid, sardine, etc.
• Environment linkages to biological processes and their time scales
• Factors influencing top-down vs. bottom-up processes
• Societal and economic impacts of climate variability.


Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST) ― Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP)

The BEST-BSIERP Bering Sea Project is a six-year study of the Bering Sea ecosystem, from the benthos and the atmosphere to human communities, and everything in between.
The aim of BEST-BSIERP is to understand and predict consequences of climate change for Bering Sea marine ecosystems. It incorporates end to end studies of Bering Sea ecosystems including climate, physics, primary production, zooplankton, fish, seabirds, marine mammals and people. BEST is closely associated with the human dimensions program in the Bering on climate change and will form part of the US International Polar Year (IPY) program. BEST-BSIERP priority research modules include:
• How is the disappearance of sea ice affecting the Bering Sea Ecosystem?
• What controls the abundance of nutrients on the Shelf and what is the influence of climate variability?
• What will be the ecosystem effects of a warmer and more stratified Bering Sea?

ISE (Iceland)

Iceland Sea Ecosystem

The main goal of the Iceland Sea Ecosystem (ISE) program is to identify and evaluate inorganic and organic production processes in the Iceland Sea as a means to obtain a holistic picture of the function of its ecosystem. The second main goal is to measure and link together the processes that determine the life history pattern of the capelin stock in time and space. The project involves interdisciplinary work on hydrography and currents, nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish (capelin). The final goal is to define the ecological position of the capelin stock and try to explain what has caused marked changes in its distribution and biology during recent years.




International Polar Year (IPY) /
Ecosystem Studies of Sub-Arctic Regions (ESSAR)
The International Polar Year is a large scientific program focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic from March 2007 to March 2009. In order to have full and equal coverage of both the Arctic and the Antarctic, IPY 2007-8 covers two full annual cycles from March 2007 to March 2009 and will involve over 200 projects, with thousands of scientists from over 60 nations examining a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics. It is also an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate, follow, and get involved with, cutting edge science in real-time.

Marine Ecosystems Comparison Norway-US (MENU I & II)

MENU I was a joint undertaking between Norway and the US financed by the Research Council of Norway. It conducted marine ecosystem comparisons based primarily on observational data for the eastern Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank and the Norwegian and Barents seas. MENU II extends these comparative studies by using several different ecosystem models and expanding the geographic coverage to include the Northern California Current, Southern New England, and the Middle Atlantic Bight in the US and the North Sea off Norway.

Norway-Canada Ecosystem Comparison (NORCAN)

NORCAN is a comparative study of climate variability in marine ecosystems of the Labrador/Newfoundland region and the Barents Sea/Norwegian Shelf.

Contact us

For any questions about ESSAS or further information please contact any of the ESSAS Co-chairs

Benjamin Planque
Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway

Franz Mueter
University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA

Naomi Harada
Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo
Kashiwa, Japan