Biodiversity in the Arctic

Compared with many other tundra ecosystems in similar climate zones, Svalbard's food web is of relatively low complexity. The main cause of this is the archipelago's isolated geographical location, possibly combined with specific climatic conditions. However, due to the combination of distinctive environmental factors and different habitats and biotopes, the sea areas around Svalbard have a characteristically large biological diversity compared with other Arctic areas at similar latitudes.

The Arctic is typified by low temperatures, low precipitation, strong seasonal variation in solar insolation and the availability of nutrients. Other characteristics are the prevalence of permafrost and sea ice.

There may be large natural differences in physical factors from one year to the next. Intra-annual and inter-annual variation in physical factors affects primary producers, prey animals and predators in respect of incidence, prevalence and production. Some species are present in the Arctic only in parts of the year or in parts of their lifecycle.

In the Arctic, there is an intimate link between the ecosystems in the sea and on land.


Research into biodiversity covers a range of fields (such as cellular and molecular biology, physiology, ecology, behavioural biology, conservation biology, taxonomy and evolution) and different trophic levels (from viruses and bacteria to large mammals).

Regarding ecosystems, more knowledge is required about their structures and functions, and the effect of the different types of impacts, both natural and anthropogenic, they are subjected to. This presupposes an awareness of how and why the numbers and distribution of species and populations vary.

More about our research into biodiversity

Environmental management

Norway has a policy goal of environmental management being ecosystem-based, i.e. that the management of human activities is based on the framework that the ecosystem defines for the maintenance of its structure, functioning and production.

Any pressure on an ecosystem should consequently be assessed on the basis of the cumulative environmental effects on the ecosystem now and in the future, in the light of coherences in the ecosystems and their functioning.

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