Institute: Akvaplan-niva (APN), Polar Environmental centre, Tromsø, Norway/ University Courses on Svalbard (UNIS), Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

Contact person: Sabine Cochrane

e-mail address:


Proposed Primary Site:

Ny Ålesund, Kongsfjorden, Spitsbergen (78° 55' N, 11° 56' E,)


Sovereignty of Svalbard (Spitsbergen) was given to Norway in 1920, by treaty. Svalbard is administrered by the Norwegian government, via the governor of Svalbard.

Ny Ålesund, the only settlement in the area, originally was established as a mining settlement, with production between 1916-1929 and 1945-1962. The company, Kings Bay AS, which previously was responsible for mining activities, now runs the Ny Ålesund settlement as a research community. Kings Bay AS and the Norwegian government are committed to developing Ny-Ålesund into a leading international Arctic environmental research and monitoring station.


PRISTINESS: Primary sites should be as free as possible from anthropogenic stressors, and natural stressors atypical of the region (e.g. reduced salinity, high turbidity).

List potential sources of pollution that are likely to impinge on the site:-

Industrial pollution: none

Agricultural pollution: none

Mining: none since closure of mining activities in 1962*.

Dumping: none

Dredging: none

*Some residual contamination, including some PCBs, has been shown very locally near the old mining buildings (Skei 1993). This is thought to arise from submerged cables (due to severe storm damage) and transformer equipment. However, in relation to contaminant levels in other Arctic areas, the general level of contaminants in the Kongsfjord area can be considered as background (see AMAP 1998).

What is the human population of the site in total and per unit area?

Estimated average population of 40 in Ny Ålesund (may be 20 in winter, up to 100 in summer).

Estimate 40 persons per km2 in most concentrated area.

What is the average population growth per year?

No growth in permanent residents.

How is sewage disposed of? If possible give an estimate of the quantity and quality of the output.

Untreated effluent filtered through sandbank - 40 person-equivalents (Pe) per year. Within 2 years it is planned to install a sewage filtering system (particularly in connection with the planned building of a new marine laboratory).

There is a very strict waste sorting and recycling system in practice. Visitors are requested to take all special or non compostable waste home with them. Organic waste is composted and used as fertiliser for tundra rehabilitation.

Describe the extent of commercial fishing in the area. Please specify the kinds of gear used (trawling, seine netting, lobster pots etc.)

None in the inner part of the fjord, some shrimp trawling in the outer part. Precise data on trawling intensity not currently available.


Give an account of tourist activities in the area (how many tourists per year; what do they do?).

The only permitted tourist activity is cruise-ships. Passengers are allowed on land for 2 hours, during which time no garbage or other waste is allowed to be dumped. All persons in Ny Ålesund must keep to the paths to avoid tundra erosion.

Approx. 80 cruise ships arrive at Ny Ålesund each year and 30 research and fisheries vessels.


Provide evidence that there are no natural stressors such as high turbidity or reduced salinity that are atypical of the region.

The salinity and turbidity gradient that exists along the fjord, from the actively calving glacier to the more typically marine fjord mouth is absolutely typical for high-latitude fjords along the west coast of Spitsbergen.

Give references to any chemical or physical data that support the claim that this is a pristine site.

The chemical data in Skei 1993, seen in comparison with other areas in the Arctic (AMAP 1998) show that contaminant levels are generally close to background. Long-distance transported contamination (polar accumulation) should be seen as an important element in biodiversity research, rether than detracting from it.

AMAP 1998. AMAP assessment report: Arctic pollution issues. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP). Oslo (Norway). 859 pp.

Skei, J. 1993. Miljøgeokjemiske undersøkelser i Kongsfjorden 1991 og 1992. (Environmental geochemichal survey in Kongsfjorden 1991 and 1992.) NIVA report 0-90112, 42pp. ISBN 82-577-2413-0.

General physical data and information are given in:

Svendsen et al. in review. The physical environment of the Kongsfjord. Submitted to Polar Research.

HABITATS: The site should comprise a mosaic of habitats in a well-defined area that are representative of the region.

List the range of habitats present at the site:-


Rock: X

Sand: No sandy beaches as such, but some smaller coves with sand/shellsand. This is typical of Svalbard.

Mud: Muds between boulders, also some muddy areas in the inner part.


Rock: X

Sand: X

Mud: X including glacio-marine deposits

Seagrass beds: not ‘seagrass’ but typical rocky-shore macroalgal assemblages

How representative is this site of its region (i.e. what regional habitats are missing)?

None that the proposers are aware of.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION: The site should already be well-studied (i.e. biodiversity studies should not rely entirely on new research).

For what groups of organisms are comprehensive inventories available? Please list major taxa in each category below, and list publications.

An overview of biological knowledge in the Kongsfjorden is given in

Hop et al. in review. The Kongsfjord Ecosystem. Submitted to Polar Research.


All the major macrobenthic taxa are present in the Kongsfjorden. In the inner part of the fjord, the fauna is dominated by polychaete worms and bivalve molluscs that tolerate a high sedimentation environment. These assemblages are also subject to ice scouring. In the outer parts of the fjord, most taxa are represented within the faunal assemblages. The inner parts are dominated by shallow-living forms, while the outer part is populated by larger, deep-living organisms that are characteristic of stable, high-latitude areas.

Jorgensen, LL.& B. Gulliksen 2001. Rocky bottom fauna in arctic Kongsfjord (Svalbard) studied by means of suction sampling and photography. Polar Biology

Lippert, H., Iken, K., Rachor, E. & Wiencke, C. (in press.). Macrofauna associated with macroalgae in the Kongsfjord (Spitsbergen) - Species composition and affinities to abundant macroalgal species. Polar Biol.

Akvaplan-niva unpublished data from a transect of five stations, sampling area 0.5 m2 per station i.e. 2.5 m2 in total.

As yet unpublished data by Mike Kendall, PML.

Maria Wlodarska-Kowalczuk PhD thesis on Kongsfjorden macrofauna (title pending), defended 2001. Polish Institute of Oceanology, Sopot, Poland.



Aasgaard, K. 1978: Foraminifer faunaen i Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. (The foraminifera fauna in Kongsfjorden.) Unpublished thesis, University of Oslo, Norway, 133 pp.

As yet unpublished data belonging to Paul Somerfield, PML.


Elverhøi, A., Liestøl, O. & Nagy, J. 1980: Glacial erosion, sedimentation and microfauna in the inner part of Kongsfjorden, Spitsbergen. Norsk Polarinstitutt Skrifter 172, 33-60.


Weslawski, J. M., Pedersen, G., Falk-Petersen, S and Porazinski, K. 2000: Entrapment of macrozooplankton in an Arctic fjord basin, Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Oceanologia, 42, 57-69.

Digby, P. S. B. 1961: The vertical distribution and movements of marine plankton under midnight-sun conditions in Spitsbergen. J. Anim. Ecol. 30, 9-25.

Kwasniewski, S., Falk-Petersen, S., Hop H. & Pedersen G. 2001 (in press): Spatial distribution patterns of three Calanus species in an Arctic glacial fjord. J. Plankt. Res.


Hasle, G. R. & von Quillfeldt, C. H. 1996: Part 8. Marine microalgae. In A. Elvebakk & P. Prestrud (eds.): A catalogue of Svalbard plants, fungi, algae and cyanobacteria. Norsk Polarinstitutt Skrifter 198, 375-382.


Hasle, G. R. & Heimdal, B. R. 1998: The net phytoplankton in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard, July 1988, with general remarks on species composition of arctic phytoplankton. Polar Res. 17, 31-52.

Hegseth, E. N. 1998: Primary production in the northern Barents Sea. Polar Res. 17, 113-123.

Hegseth, E. N., Svendsen, H. & von Quillfeldt, C. H. 1995: Phytoplankton in fjords and coastal waters of northern Norway: environmental conditions and dynamics of the spring bloom. In H. R. Skjoldal, C. Hopkins, K. E. Erikstad, & H. P. Leinaas, H.P. (eds.): Ecology of fjords and coastal waters. Pp. 45-72. Elsevier Science BV.

Halldal, P. & Halldal, K. 1973: Phytoplankton, chlorophyll, and submarine light conditions in Kings Bay, Spitsbergen, July 1971. Norw. J. Bot. 20, 99-108.

Hasle, G. R. & Heimdal, B. R. 1998: The net phytoplankton in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard, July 1988, with general remarks on species composition of arctic phytoplankton. Polar Res. 17, 31-52.

Keck, A., Wiktor, J., Hapter, R. & Nilsen, R. 1999: Phytoplankton assemblages related to physical gradients in an arctic, glacier-fed fjord in summer. ICES J. Mar. Sci., (56 Suppl.), 203-214.

Sympagic fauna

Weslawski, J. M., Kwasniewski, S., Wiktor, J. & Zajaczkowski, M. 1993: Observations on the fast ice biota in the fjords of Spitsbergen. Polish Polar Res. 14, 331-343.

Poltermann, M., H. Hop, S. FalkPetersen 2000. Life under Arctic sea ice - reproduction strategies of two sympagic (ice-associated) amphipod species, Gammarus wilkitzkii and Apherusa glacialis. - Marine Biology 136(5): 913-920

List any other publications relating specifically to the biodiversity or environment at the site.

Dowdeswell, J. A. & Forsberg, C. F. 1992: The size and frequency of icebergs and bergy bits derived from tidewater glaciers in Kongsfjorden, northwest Spitsbergen. Polar Res. 11, 81-91.

Weslawski, J. M., Szymelfenig, M., Zajaczkowski, M. & Keck, A. 1999: Influence of salinity and suspended matter on benthos of an Arctic tidal flat. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 56 (Suppl.), 194-202.

Whittington, R. J., Forsberg, C. F. & Dowdeswell, J. A. 1997: Seismic and side-scan sonar investigations of recent sedimentation in an ice-proximal glacimarine setting, Kongsfjorden, north-west Spitsbergen. In T. A. Davies et al. (eds.): Glaciated Continental Margins - An Atlas of Acoustic Images. Pp. 175-178. Chapman and Hall ,

Aguilera, J., Karsten, U., Lippert, H., Vögele, B., Philipp, E., Hanelt, D. & Wiencke, C. 1999: Effects of solar radiation on growth, photosynthesis and respiration of marine macroalgae from the Arctic. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser. 191, 109-119.


List publications relating to historical/time-series data at the site.

Although much data exists internationally, a comprehensive temporal/spatial trend analysis is not yet carried out. This will be a priority task for the near future.


Is biodiversity information available in electronic form? If so, what is the nature of the database (CD-ROM, web-site)?

At present maps showing agreed biological zonation and a meta-database structure is available at the Kongsfjord Ecosystem web site at: This site and the database are currently under development.

The database will first and foremost indicate what data are available and where these can be found, rather than containing raw data as such.

PROTECTION STATUS: The pristine nature of the site should be protected by legislation if it is to be a "flagship site" for future monitoring.

What conservation legislation (national, European, international) is currently in place, how well is it implemented and how long will it last?

No current formal conservation legislations for Kongsfjorden, but the whole Svalbard (Spitsbergen) archipelago is under strict environmental surveillance and control by the Governor of Svalbard. Large regions of Spitsbergen are designated as a national park, but not the western part. There is an active on-going debate as to conservation issues – whether the area should be made a ‘researcher-only’ zone or whether it should be left as it is, with a more formal monitoring and control-system (ref. to "Kongsfjord Ecosystem Workshop, October 2000, an international venture sponsored by the Norwegian Research Council). Decision not made yet, but all parties concerned open to negotiation.

The proposers suggest the issue be discussed at the next BIOMARE workshop.

FACILITIES: The infrastructure for biodiversity research should be available. There should also be a national commitment in terms of financing and scientific activity (i.e funding should not be entirely dependent on the success of any future EU programme).

The appropriate infrastructure is available (laboratory facilities, microscopes, some holding facilities for fresh material). Facilities for collecting also are available.


The services offered by Kings Bay AS include:


How accessible is the location? Very accessible, considering its remote location, with two to three scheduled flights per week.

Is it limited seasonally (e.g. not accessible in winter)? No, except for exceptional circumstances.

Is it accessible by car or by boat (indicate means of transport and distance from laboratory facilities in km)?

Boat access almost year-round (depending on ice-conditions), otherwise by plane from Longyearbyen to Ny Ålesund. Laboratory in nearby vicinity.


What is the status of local facilities:-

Laboratory: excellent

Boats: Charter possibilities by arrangement.

Are these facilities available for guest researchers? Yes

What facilities are there for SCUBA diving? All facilities available

What housing is available?

Enough for up to 150 persons, food and lodging provided by Kings Bay AS.

List the sources of funding currently in place specifically for biodiversity research at this site (from where and how much).

International institutes (including Italy, UK, Sweden, France and Japan) provide independent national funding.

Within Norway, funding is obtained from:


List by name the persons currently involved in biodiversity research at this site, their roles and the percentage of their time spent on this research.

This portion awaiting specific input from Kings Bay AS. Will be obtained and forwarded ASAP.

See and for an overview of multidiciplinary research projects carried out at Ny Ålesund.



Please use this section to add any additional supporting comments, for example what do you think is special about your site from the biodiversity point of view, why is it important to monitor biodiversity there, and what is the public awareness of this?

The Kongsfjorden offers a number of interesting possibilities for benthic research. Although the fjord is located in the high-Arctic, the benthic environment is influenced to a great extent by Atlantic water, depending on the oceanographic conditions prevalent during that time.

The amount of Atlantic water penetrating northwards is at least partly dependent on whether there there is a cyclonic or anti-cyclonic atmospheric circulation at that time (see articles by Andrey Proshutinsky). Also, global climatic factors will influence the relative distribution of Arctic and atlantic water masses. Kongsfjorden is one of the most northerly Svalbard fjords that is Atlantic-influenced and, as such, it will be one of the first areas to show change in oceanographic structure, should the climatic regime change..Of the northern fjords, it is the only one where research facilities are available (there is no other settlement in the entire area, other than the odd hunters’ cabin built of driftwood and usually abandoned).

Because the distribution of different water masses is reflected in the distribution of benthic taxa, long-term temporal monitoring of the benthic biodiversity in the Kongsfjorden will allow an assessment of changes in climatic or oceanographic regimes.

Other ongoing research in Kongsfjorden is strongly orientated towards climate issues, offering ideal conditions for a coupling between biodiversity and global issues. Public awareness of climate and biodiversity ("what it means and why it matters") is increasing, and one of the responsibilities of the BIOMARE project must be to build upon this. Kongsfjorden, with its mix of true Arctic ‘top’ conditions and Atlantic-influenced ‘bottom’ conditions offers a unique possibility for encouraging multi-diciplinary biodiversity research at the very northern end of the pan-european ‘transect’.

Combining these research possibilities with the restricted and ecologically-concious tourism in the Kongsfjorden will further increass public awareness of the need to monitor and understand biodiversity.

The Kings Bay facilities were awarded EU Large-Scale Facility status in c1998, in recognition of the international importance of the site. Continuing to promote Ny Ålesund as an Arctic research centre will strengthen the chances of obtaining national and international funding for individual research projects.




We thank Monica Solås, director of Kings Bay AS for providing information and statistics on infrastructure, tourism and general research activities at Ny Ålesund.