Climate change and human activities have multifaceted and complex effects on land and ocean ecosystems in the Arctic. The increase of human activities, along with the melting of glaciers and permafrost, releases pollutants, such as plastics, heavy metals and harmful chemicals, threatening marine and coastal ecosystems and human health in the region.

For the EU to achieve its Zero Pollution Ambition, a deeper understanding of the complex interplay of pollution and climate change and their impacts on Arctic communities is needed. Pollution, including plastics, ship emissions and wastewater, pose threats to the health of humans and ecosystems, which they inhabit and depend on.

Community engagement at the heart of the project

The ICEBERG project (Innovative Community Engagement for Building Effective Resilience and Arctic Ocean Pollution-control Governance in the Context of Climate Change) explores challenges related to pollution in the Arctic in the light of climate change and by applying One Health approach, which recognizes the interdependence of the health of humans, animals, plants and entire ecosystems. 

The project also contributes to co-creating solutions to these challenges by developing scenarios, strategies and recommendations in collaboration with Arctic communities at three locations: Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), Iceland and Svalbard.

The project integrates natural and social sciences with Indigenous and local knowledge, adopting an ethical, multi-actor and gender-sensitive approach to assess the impacts, risks and vulnerabilities of local communities.

Through innovative community engagement, researchers will co-develop resilience strategies to combat pollution and climate change, while also creating recommendations for new pollution-control governance. 

Plastic and other litter floating in water.
Plastic and other litter floating in a harbor area in Greenland. Photo: Ilona Mettiäinen.

Focus on governance processes

The ICEBERG project will run three years, 2024–2026. The project is led by the University of Oulu.

The ICEBERG team investigates the sources, types and distribution of marine pollutants, such as plastics, ship emissions, wastewater and heavy metals and their impacts on livelihoods and health with Arctic communities in Northern Iceland and Southern Greenland by a transdisciplinary co-production process that utilizes also simulations, remote sensing and local observations. 

The Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland is leading the work package that deals with the governance of sources and monitoring of pollution and the different policy, regulatory, organizational and networking measures to tackle the presence of pollutants in Arctic environment. 

– We will also contribute to transdisciplinary knowledge co-production with local communities in Greenland and Iceland, including by gathering observations of pollution and co-designing community scenarios and pollution control strategies with the communities. Our team also supports the development of inclusive and equitable knowledge co-production framework, says researcher Ilona Mettiäinen from the Arctic Centre.

On a practical level the project develops, for example, automatic marine litter detection tools using drones, AI and citizen science. The project evaluates the toxicological impact of microplastics, nanoplastics and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on human digestive health. Furthermore, the impact of pollution emissions on the marine food web and traditional foods of Arctic communities are assessed.

More information:

Project website: 

Researcher Adam Stepien
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland 

Research professor Timo Koivurova
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland