Ecosystem overviews

Norwegian Sea Ecosystem Overview

Ecosystem and environmental trends
  • ​​​Water flowing into the Norwegian Sea from the south has been colder and fresher in 2016–2020 than previously, but overall cooling has been limited due to reduced heat loss driven by increased strength of westerly winds bringing in warmer air.
  • Annual primary production has been higher (on average around 30%) in 2013–2019 compared to 2003–2012, possibly due to increased inflow of cold and fresh Arctic water containing elevated concentrations of nutrients.
  • The biomass of major pelagic stocks in the ecoregion - Norwegian spring-spawning herring, mackerel (Scomber scombrus) and blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) - have all declined in recent years.
  • Pelagically-feeding seabirds breeding along the Norwegian coast have declined substantially since the start of monitoring in 1980. Common guillemot (Uria aalge) is at high risk of extinction as a breeding species in the area.
  • For marine mammals, a long-term shift in summer distribution from the Norwegian Sea to the Barents Sea has occurred in recent years. Pup production is at low level or declining for hooded seal (Cystophora cristata), grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) and harp seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus).
  • Bycatch levels of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) population in coastal gillnet fisheries might exceed internationally adopted thresholds.

Pressures

The four most important pressures on the Norwegian Sea ecoregion, excluding climate change, are selective extraction of species, abrasion, underwater noise, and introduction of contaminating compounds (Figure 2). The first three of these pressures are linked to human activities in the region (fishing, maritime transport, and oil and gas production), while contaminating compounds are mainly introduced from sources outside the Norwegian Sea. The main pressures described below are defined in the ICES glossary of human pressures.​​​

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Norwegian Sea Ecosystem Overview

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