Environmental changes in the North Atlantic Region: SCANNET as a collaborative approach for documenting, understanding and predicting changes.

Abisko Scientific Research Station, Sweden.
AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment (Impact Factor: 2.3). 12/2004; Spec No 13:39-50.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The lands surrounding the North Atlantic Region (the SCANNET Region) cover a wide range of climate regimes, physical environments and availability of natural resources. Except in the extreme North, they have supported human populations and various cultures since at least the end of the last ice age. However, the region is also important at a wider geographical scale in that it influences the global climate and supports animals that migrate between the Arctic and all the other continents of the world. Climate, environment and land use in the region are changing rapidly and projections suggest that global warming will be amplified there while increasing land use might dramatically reduce the remaining wilderness areas. Because much of the region is sparsely populated--if populated at all--observational records of past environmental changes and their impacts are both few and of short duration. However, it is becoming very important to record the changes that are now in progress, to understand the drivers of these changes, and to predict future consequences of the changes. To facilitate research into understanding impacts of global change on the lands of the North Atlantic Regions, and also to monitor changes in real time, an EU-funded network of research sites and infrastructures was formed in 2000: this was called SCANNET--SCANdinavian/North European NETwork of Terrestrial Field Bases. SCANNET currently consists of 9 core sites and 5 sites within local networks that together cover the broad range of current climate and predicted change in the region. Climate observations are well replicated across the network, whereas each site has tended to select particular environmental and ecological subjects for intensive observation. This provides diversity of both subject coverage and expertise. In this paper, we summarize the findings of SCANNET to-date and outline its information bases in order to increase awareness of data on environmental change in the North Atlantic Region. We also identify important gaps in our understanding and identify where the roles of existing infrastructures and activities represented by SCANNET can facilitate future research, monitoring and ground-truthing activities.