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B2BI Core Regions

More than a billion people live in the North Atlantic coastal zone.  As the world population moves increasingly from the interior to the coastal zone increased ecological pressure is imposed upon coastal regions. Transportation of goods across the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans are immense. An increasing amount of the world’s sea food supply comes from the fertile North Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, its people depend upon on the oceans supporting, regulating, provisioning and cultural services* which are not uniformly distributed but vary throughout its regions. National and sectorial approaches alone are inadequate to provide guidelines for a sustainable future for the interlinked regional domains and its knowledge-based resource- and ecosystem management.  Thus, an integrative, but also large-scale regional perspective of the North Atlantic Ocean is inevitable. The challenges of the future are basin-wide, multidisciplinary, and integrative and this is the principal perspective of B2BI.

B2BI investigates common functional traits that appear continuously throughout the expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean. They may or may not be linked specifically to geography as they may cross and link regional and biogeographical domains. The core regions may further expand or contract over interannual or climate change time scales. These linkages combine physical forcing and biogeochemical responses that allow material transports and share key ecological functions and causal mechanisms. The North Atlantic Ocean and its currents determine not only the major climate machinery of its core regions, but shape how the entire Northern Hemisphere functions. For example, the water vapor from the tropical regions of the North Atlantic Ocean results in an atmospheric teleconnection to the freshening of the North Pacific Ocean which contributes significantly to Arctic Ocean ice formation. In turn the melting ice and freshened export from the Arctic Ocean determines climate and productivity in the northern North Atlantic Ocean. It is the region for deep-water formation that fuels the Great Conveyor Belt circulating on climatic time scales around the globe. Also, the open water regions of the Arctic Ocean cause much of the extreme weather events and increasing climatic variability in the southern USA and the Mediterranean.

The B2BI Core Regions
Created by Rudi Cayers, UiT the Arctic University of Norway

North Equatorial Current Region (NEC)

In this region the base for the fundamental function of the North Atlantic is shaped.  Water from the west-bound North Equatorial Current gets the support from the South Atlantic through the Guinea Current and continues into the Caribbean. High evaporation creates the fundamental qualities of the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current: high salinity and temperature.  It is the region of hurricane formation which spreads wind fields and vapor/rain throughout the eastern and central North Atlantic and sees sporadic Sahara dust storm that fertilize the ocean and tropical forests of the Amazon.  The region holds important harbors for transport routes through the Panama Channel and a multitude of venues important for tourism and nature experiences.

Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift Region (GS)

The Gulf Stream proper is a western-intensified current, driven largely by wind stress.  Its continuation, northeast-bound North Atlantic Drift, in contrast, is largely driven by thermohaline circulation.  The Gulf Stream is eddy-rich, bound to the continental shelf of the USA and departs offshore around Cape Hatteras, impacted by the inflow of arctic-influenced waters from the Labrador Current.  The North Atlantic Drift connects North America with northern Europe (NAC) and southern Europe/West Africa (CC) when it comes close to Ireland. The GS region has an important role in biotic and abiotic assemblages of marine ecosystems and is important for transatlantic transport, fisheries, carbon capture and climate regulation.

North Atlantic Current and adjacent Arctic Ocean (NAC)

As a gigantic advective system the North Atlantic Current transports large amounts of warm and saline waters to the north-east, fueling the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and (by subduction) the Nansen and Amundsen Basins of the Arctic Ocean.  It is impacted by wind stress from the dominating westerlies. Branches of the North Atlantic Current cross the Fram Strait and Greenland Sea and create, in concert with the East Greenland Current, the dynamic oceanography of southern Greenland. It results in rich fisheries along the southern Greenlandic west coast. The open water of the Arctic Ocean is strongly influenced by the North Atlantic Current and determines the latitudinal variability and the strength of the Jet Stream and, consequently the increasing anomalies in weather and climate change at lower latitudes. The coastal areas are important transport routes and are important for tourism based on nature experiences. The physical oceanography stimulates the high biodiversity and productivity of the region and sustains some of the world’s most important, year-round fisheries. Also of significance are ecosystem services for coastal industries (such as alumina, petrochemical developments, harbors), aquaculture, kelp forests, oxygen production and carbon capture and storage.

Arctic Ocean and East Greenland Current Region (EGC)

Cold water, impacted by ice-melt, leaves the central Arctic Ocean southwards through the Fram Strait. The East Greenland Current penetrates deep in the north-eastern North Atlantic. It is the region with immense freshwater discharge from the Greenlandic ice cap, with implications for primary production and carbon capture. It influences deep-water formation, which is the start of the Great Conveyor Belt that connects the North Atlantic with Antarctica and the North Pacific 

Ocean.  It also impacts the complex hydrography of the Nordic seas and the southern region of Greenland. Add specific ecosystem services of the region

Baffin Bay and Labrador Current Region (LC)

Cold water, impacted by ice-melt, leaves the central Arctic Ocean also through the Canadian Archipelago and Nares Strait into Baffin Bay, which is connected in the south to the Labrador Sea.  The complex hydrography of the region results in both deep-water formation and iceberg export.  The southward dispersion along the east coast of North America creates, along with the north-bound Gulf Stream, a productive region with rich fisheries, such as the Great Banks. 

Canary Current Region (CC) 

Between Ireland and the Azores, a branch of the North Atlantic Drift turns southward towards the Hispanic peninsula and west Africa and turns north of the Cape Verde Islands westwards to fuel the Caribbean-bound North Equatorial Current.  Along its path, and impacted by the trade winds in summer, large scale upwelling takes place, supporting a rich fishery off the coasts of Morocco, Mauretania, and Senegal. This produces westbound eddy channels and sporadic Sahara dust storms stimulate primary production through iron and phosphate from the dust. This core region is home for Macaronesia, the island archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira, the Canaries and Cape Verde. The Canary Current is one of the world’s major boundary current systems with cold water upwelling, ranking 3rd in the world in terms of primary productivity and having the highest fisheries production of any African region. The coastal upwelling, caused by the trade winds, provides important ecosystem services including habitat for fish and aquaculture and wood from mangroves. In addition, the islands hold important harbors for transatlantic transport routes contributing to urban development as well as tourism.

Sargasso Sea Region

The vast center region between the North Equatorial Current (NEC), Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift (GS) and Canary Current Region (CC) is the Sargasso Sea which has no land boundaries.  Its existence is caused by the strength of the currents that circle the region.  It is distinguished from other parts of the Atlantic Ocean by its characteristic brown Sargassum seaweed and often calm blue water. Bermuda, the Azores, and Canary Islands are near the western, northern, and eastern fringes of the sea. The deep blue Sargasso Sea ecosystem provides ecological functions that are essential in the support of human life through oxygen production and carbon capture and storage, for example.


*Supporting services (nutrient balance, biological interactions, sediment balance), Regulating services (pollutant attenuation, water quality, gas regulation, climate regulation, hazard moderation), Provisioning services (air supply, water quality, food, raw materials, medical resources), Cultural services (aesthetics and existence, spiritual and historic, science and education, recreational opportunities)