Renewed Franco-Russian commitment to Arctic research

June 12, 2003

Brussels, 11 Jun 2003

Russia and France have reiterated the importance of continued co-operation in Arctic research, and forged a new mandate to investigate the effects of climate change on and by the polar region.

Presidents Jacques Chirac of France and Vladimir Putin of Russia reaffirmed their countries co-operation in polar research. The two leaders said last week that they were eager to continue their countries' collaboration in an effort to learn about this important region. A joint statement lists several areas where collaborative research could be of value.

Protecting indigenous peoples is important to sustainable development and environmental protection, the statement said. Both nations also attach great significance to the training of scientific personnel for the special conditions in the far north. Continued co-operation between Russia's State Polar Academy and France's Jean Malorie Polar Fund would focus on expanding their scientific and university exchanges.

Stronger ties between researchers is the centrepiece of the European Commission's research Framework Programme (FP6). Researcher mobility and the sharing of 'best practices' in scientific endeavours create synergies which the Commission calls 'networks of excellence'. Research teams from EU Member States and FP6 participatory countries get financial support to carry out research projects in thematic priority areas such as the 'Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems'.

A climate of change in the Arctic

Better understanding of global and Arctic climates helps us understand what is happening to the planet and to predict future changes. And improved co-operation between research centres, such as the agreement between Russia and France, helps to build a clearer picture of the changes taking place at the polar icecaps.

The low tolerance and long regeneration times of Arctic and sub-Arctic forests, especially tundra ecosystems, makes them vulnerable to the effects of surface and airborne industrial pollution. The diversity of plant species in the Arctic is generally low, which increases the chances for significant loss of biodiversity.

Ice and snow in the Arctic region is ten times more effective at reflecting the sun's energy than the open ocean. Sea-ice levels in the Arctic have dramatically declined in the past 30 years. This directly affects how much of the sun's radiation is retained as heat on the Earth and how much is reflected back to space. Quite simply, less sea-ice can lead to temperature rises.

By modelling the interactions between sea-ice thickness and distribution, ocean circulation, radiation, as well as cloud and snow cover, scientists can give us a better picture of overall climate change – pointing to the potential damage being done to fragile ecosystems from, for example, industrial pollution.

Source: VOA News

Contact: research@cec.eu.int

More information on this subject:

Arctic Research Consortium Austria http://www.arctic.at/castaway/

Scott Polar Research Institute http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/research/plrsg /projects/russianarctic/

FP6 theme: Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems http://www.cordis.lu/sustdev/

DG Research
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/research/i ndex_en.html

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