The Kongsfjorden System flagship is one of the four Ny-Ålesund research flagships.

Working groups

The Kongsfjorden System Flagship programme is preparing to make further steps towards an integrative, interdisciplinary and international project and to facilitate structured research activities. To address this, a number of working groups have been identified to move on with more specific project plans.

Each of these working groups plan to organize joint network meetings and initiate research activities. Anticipated outputs from the working group meetings are joint publications, joint proposals, increased collaboration in the field, and improved sharing of data.

Several monitoring activities are ongoing in Kongsfjorden, but several deficiencies have been identified: First, there is no one-stop shop where all data are available. While a common database is a long-term objective, an interim solution would be to comprehensively list existing data sets and produce a small number of compiled data sets on specific variables of interest, for example, temperature and carbonate chemistry. Second, the vast majority of monitoring efforts are performed in the water column. It is critical to expand monitoring to closer to the benthos and also throughout the western coast of Spitsbergen. This is essential to monitor the progress and magnitude of atlantification. Third, whereas ocean acidification is a driver of key importance in the Arctic, it is continuously monitored at only one location. The availability of new autonomous sensors makes it possible to considerably expand the observation network. Finally, the fourth objective is to find ways to expand observations of changes in community composition both in the water column and the benthos.
The goal of this WP is to address these deficiencies and work out strategies on how to fill the gaps highlighted above. The WP will establish an overview on monitoring activities and data repositories and elaborate on how these information could be merged and become accessible in the most efficient manner.

WP contactJean-Pierre Gattuso (CNRS and UPMC, France) and Philipp Fischer (AWI, Germany).

Elevated temperatures are predicted to change the atmospheric dynamics of contaminants transported to the Arctic from remote sources. Higher temperatures will also stimulate the movement of contaminants between environmental phases and increase the permeability of soil, with melting permafrost potentially leading to a release of contaminants currently sequestered in frozen land. Simultaneously, local sources such as remains from abandoned industrial activities, and discharges from transportation and sewage outfalls are becoming relevant contributors of current-use and emerging contaminants as Arctic exploitation increases in the wake of climate change.
In the light of a changing Arctic, the objectives of the working group are to

  1. determine seasonal variations of targeted legacy and non-regulated/emerging organic pollutants on the ocean-atmosphere, land-water, water–ice and water to sediments interfaces;
  2. explore influences of oceanographic changes on pollutant profiles in the respective water masses, the transition processes as well as possible consequences for remobilization, transformation and deposition;
  3. construct potential scenarios of climatic change on regional Arctic ecosystems;
  4. describe the source-to-sink dynamics of natural organic matter and anthropogenic contaminants in a rapidly changing Arctic fjord system;
  5. carefully map and characterize existing local contaminant sources on land and in the sea within the Kongsfjorden-Krossfjorden system.

This working group will: (1) organize an international workshop related to contaminant dynamics in the Arctic, and (2) aims to establish an international expert group under the framework of the flagship program to unify the related research works in the future. Furthermore, it will (3) promote joint master or PhD degree programs in this international framework.

WP contactGeir Wing Gabrielsen (NPI, Norway).

Climate change will exert considerable changes in the continum of interactions between atmosphere-land-sea. The research fostered within this working group will focus on the impact of increased terrestrial, glacial and fluvial inputs into the ford system. By interaction of scientists from all four of the flagship programs, we aim to link climate signals and glacial mass balances to ecosystem functioning.

We will address how temperature increase, black carbon deposition and changes in precipitation will result in increasing glacial and terrestrial run-off. From these sources, we will quantify sediment and freshwater input to the Kongsfjord-Krossfjord system and address resultant changes to the underwater radiation and salinity regime, and potential implications to primary production and tropic interactions. In addition, this working group will also aim to characterize the modulation of trophic interactions between terrestrial and marine ecosystems and climate variation (i.e. transfer of marine biomass to terrestrial systems and vice versa).

Within this working group, an attempt will be made to address prime ecological questions by a transfer of expertise between all four flagship programs. In order to achieve this, a workshop meeting directed to specify land-sea-atmosphere interactions in the Kongsfjord-Krossfjord system will be organized. Existing data will be screened, collected and used for predictions of sediment input and its implications to the underwater radiation climate.

WP contactKai Bischof (Bremen University, Germany).

Our understanding on the effects of increased CO2, temperature and UV radiation on Arctic marine primary producers is mainly restricted to the summer months. During this time, continuous solar irradiation coincides with a nutrient-depleted and strongly stratified environment. Due to the combination of these factors, Arctic algae in summer are prone to regular or even chronic photoinhibition, that only disappears as the darkness progressively increases towards the autumn. However, increasing global temperature may lead to the release of different forms of inorganic nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), mainly from terrestrial sources. We hypothesise that increased contribution to the N and P pools in the fjord in summer may affect growth and metabolic performances of phytoplankton as well as benthic micro- and macrophytes. Conclusive data on the effects of N and P enrichment in summer on growth and physiological performance of other macrophytes, associated benthic microalgae, and pelagic phytoplankton are, particularly in this area, not available. Given the strong interactive effects of nutrient limitation and other environmental drivers (e.g. temperature, CO2) on the competition between photosynthetic organisms, such knowledge is indispensable when assessing the potential for climate change adaptation of the Kongsfjord ecosystem.

The research will be carried out both on site in Ny-Ålesund (Svalbard), as well as through laboratory experiments in the home institutions. The working group will organize common research activities by means of visits of several weeks of duration of both senior and junior researchers. In addition, joint project meetings will be carried out for data analysis, experimental design and group discussions.

WP contactCarlos Jimenez (Malaga University, Spain)

The response of biological communities to on-going and futures changes in the Arctic is very poor, especially the capabilities for acclimation and adaptation. This major gap could be addressed using a two-pronged approach. First, time-series observations of the physical, chemical and ecological parameters addressed in WP1 should be put together and analysed in terms of bioclimatic envelopes and responses to continuous and abrupt events. Second, perturbation experiments should be planned with three objectives in mind: (1) investigate communities rather than isolated species, (2) manipulate more than one driver to understand the combined response to multiple drivers and (3) look at long term perturbations (weeks to months at least) to assess potential for adaptation.

This WP will arrange a workshop meeting foccussed to the conceptualisation of multifactorial experiments. In this way WP 5 will create the biological link between the environmental observations (WP 1) and ecosystem modelling (WP 6).

WP contactSteeve Comeau (Laboratoire d’Oceanographie de Villefranche sur Mer, France).

The aim of this working group is to synthesize available knowledge and data relevant for Kongsfjorden/Krossfjorden ecosystem modelling and debate with specialists the main processes and trophic/functional groups that should be considered in an ecosystem model of this system. In parallel, models for defined indicator species, such as Species Distribution Models (SDMs), shall be discussed. SDMs may be used to predict the shifts of the geographic distribution of the target species as a result of warming and other stressors, and physiology and population dynamics models that may be linked to the former and also feedback ecosystem modeling efforts. The final aim of this workgroup is to take full advantage of the wealth of information and data available for Kongsfjorden/Krossfjorden and to design a solid project that will allow synthesizing it in formal predictive tools.

This work group will organize a meeting with researchers with a significant publication record on the topics mentioned above, based on studies conducted in Kongsfjorden, and also with physical modelers that are currently implementing a circulation model for Kongsfjorden within the projects “Effects of oceanic inflow and glacial runoff on fjord circulation in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard; establishment of a high resolution ocean circulation model system (KongHiro)”, financed by the Fram Centre, and “TIdewater Glacier Retreat Impact on Fjord circulation and ecosystems (TIGRIF)” financed by the Norwegian Research Council.

This interaction between ecologists and physicists will allow the proper planning of the coupling methodology between physical, chemical and biological processes in the ecosystem model mentioned above. It will also be useful to plan how to define the physical context for SDM models by providing the spatial distribution of relevant physical properties in present and future scenarios that may force changes in the geographic ranges of selected species.

WP contactPedro Duarte (NPI, Norway)

Kongsfjorden has been a long-term monitoring site for seabird and eiders, and a region where a vast numbers of fish, seal and whale investigations have taken place. However, there is little to no coordination between research groups that work in this area with these animals. Given the vast environmental change that has taken place in this fjord system, which has undoubtedly impacted top trophic animals, it is time to have a top trophics working group within the Kongsfjorden flagship in order to: (i) enhance activity regarding impacts of climate change on these animals. (ii) facilitate exchange of information among scientists already working with these animals. (iii) joint scientific field campaigns to minimize research impacts on our study populations, and (iv) to link to other Kongsfjorden flagship working groups in a coordinated fashion.

Key activities of the WG 7:

  1. Determine status and trends of top trophic populations in Kongsfjorden (especially those breeding in the fjord).
  2. Explore the impacts of climate drivers on the top trophic animal populations e.g. sea ice extent, snow characteristics (on ice), increased freshwater inputs to the Kongsfjorden.
  3. Interface with modelling groups and lower trophic science teams to explore food web structure and changes.
  4. Enhance information exchange with other Kongsfjorden working groups.
  5. Increase the visibility of top trophic research (and time series) based in Ny-Ålesund.

WP contactKit Kovac (NPI, Norway)

Kongsfjorden CTD Data Portal

A data repository for marine CTD (temperature, salinity, depth) data collected in Kongsfjorden has been developed. Here researchers can upload their CTD profile data, as well as plot and download metadata for all recent profiles. All contributors will be co-authors on the annual published datasets.

Take me to the Kongsfjorden CTD Data Portal


A workshop about research on the Kongsfjorden System was arranged in Ny-Ålesund in 2008, with the aim to discuss future research and to establish the Kongsfjorden System Flagship. The Kongsfjorden System Flagship document seeks to identify future research priorities and knowledge gaps, and proposed projects to fill these.

At the 12th Ny-Ålesund seminar in Tromsø in 2015, the research priorities from 2008 where re-visited, and the status of each evaluated. The open workshop on Adaptation to environmemntal changes in the Arctic in Tromsø in fall 2016, led to a submitted proposal for activities within 2017-18 to Svalbard Strategic Grant

The Ecosystem of Kongsfjorden, Svalbard (edited by Haakon Hop, NPI, and Christian Wiencke, AWI) focuses in detail on all ecologically important aspects of the Kongsfjorden system such as the marine and atmospheric environment including long-term monitoring, ecophysiology of individual species, structure and function of the ecosystem, ecological processes and biological communities. The contributed articles include review articles and research articles that have a wider approach and bring the current research up-to-date. This book forms a baseline for future work within the flagship.


All researchers conducting or planning activity in the marine environment in Kongsfjorden are encouraged to join the Flagship by contacting the Flagship chairs (see contact information below).

If you would like to receive news or announcements from the flagship or the research station, please sign up for the monthly Newsletter.

Contact the flagship scientific committee

  • Clara Hoppe, AWI (Chair)
  • Allison Bailey, Norwegian Polar Institute (Co-chair)
  • Jean-Pierre Gattuso, CNRS
  • Finlo Cottier, SAMS
  • Carlos Jiminez, University of Malaga
  • Haakon Hop, Norwegian Polar Institute
  • Geir W Gabrielsen, Norwegian Polar Institute
  • Kai Bischof, University of Bremen
  • Pedro Duarte, Norwegian Polar Institute

Kongsfjorden System Flagship News

Kongsfjorden System Flagship Events

Our other three Ny-Ålesund research flagships

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