View onto Narsaq, Southern Greenland, August 2022. Credit: Julia Schmale

View onto Narsaq, Southern Greenland, August 2022. Credit: Julia Schmale

Greenlandic Fjord ecosystems in a changing climate: socio-cultural and environmental interactions (GreenFjord)

Duration: 1.03.2022 – 28.02.2026

Funder: Swiss Polar Institute – Flagship Grant


Accelerated climate change in the Arctic imposes profound impacts on Greenlandic fjord systems. These are fragile because of the delicate nexus between the cryosphere, ocean, land, atmosphere and biosphere. Moreover, these emblematic Greenlandic landscapes are at the heart of socio-economic and cultural systems of local livelihood. Warming induces glacial melt and calving leading to enhanced freshwater fluxes. The modified fluxes impact marine ecosystem dynamics and nutrient circulation, which in turn affect the marine food-web with cascading effects: At low trophic levels, changing phytoplankton blooms impact atmospheric chemistry and cloud formation, and hence the surface radiation budget. At high trophic levels, fish are affected with important implications for local livelihood and economy, which largely depend on marine resources.

With GreenFjord, we aim to create process understanding of how climate change affects fjord ecosystems, and how this propagates to biodiversity and livelihoods. The ultimate goal is to translate the new understanding into models to simulate and predict the evolution of future fjord systems, including glacier mass loss, trophic evolution and carbon cycling. Our field work will be conducted on land in the ocean (RV Sanna), and entail deep engagement of local residents. Key activities include:

  • Cryosphere: glacier calving and impact on fjord water and nutrient circulation
  • Ocean: physical and microbial characteristics of fjord systems
  • Biosphere: determination of biodiversity by means of environmental DNA
  • Atmosphere: influence of local natural emissions on cloud formation
  • Land: export of terrestrial organic matter to the ocean
  • Human: understanding the relationship between local livelihoods and fjord socio-ecosystems

Study area




[email protected] (PI and atmosphere lead)
[email protected] (ocean lead);
[email protected] (cryosphere lead);
[email protected] (land lead);
[email protected] (social science lead);
Kristy Deiner [email protected] and [email protected] (biodiversity leads)