Brazil sends first research expedition to Arctic

Photo: Agencia Brasil
SAO PAULO. KAZINFORM - Brazil’s first scientific expedition to the Arctic aims to explore the biodiversity of one of the planet’s coldest territories, learn more about its ecological importance and its role in global climate change, and contribute to its preservation, Agencia Brasil reports.

The Brazilian team of scientists from the Federal Universities of Brasília and Minas Gerais has been in the Svalbard archipelago—a section of the Arctic Circle that belongs to Norway—since July 8. The mission is held as part of the Brazilian Antarctic Program and funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development and other institutions.

According to University of Brasília Professor Paulo Câmara, one of the mission’s coordinators, seven percent of Brazil’s territory is located in the northern hemisphere, which reinforces the need for research in the region.

«This means that seven percent of Brazil is closer to the Arctic than to Antarctica. We’ve been in Antarctica for over 40 years, but we have no presence in the Arctic. These are two major climate regulators,» he told Agência Brasil in an interview directly from the Arctic.

The researchers are collecting plants, fungi, microorganisms, sediments, and other biological samples to generate data on the territory, which should help them understand the relationship between species occurring in both poles but nowhere else on the planet. Among them is one of Câmara’s specialties: the bryophytes, a small plant species easily dispersed in polar environments.

The Arctic is prized for its vast amount of untapped resources, like oil and natural gas, and plays a crucial role in gauging environmental and economic impacts. But the far north has been plagued over the past four decades with the swift melting of its glaciers.

Climate change

Visiting the region for the second time, the professor said he found the place very different from what it was in 2016. «I was also working, but it was not an expedition, but an individual initiative. What surprised me is how much it changed in such a short time. It’s much warmer here, much drier, and there’s much less snow and ice. The city has become larger. There’s a little town here, Longyearbyen, that’s drawing a lot more tourists. It’s impressive. The last time I was here, it was still a remote place with a lot of ice and snow. It rained a lot, and the weather was always cloudy. Now it’s quite different, much warmer and much drier,» he reported.

On whether the new circumstances stem from climate change, the professor remarked, «It’s hard to make a statement, but that’s probably the case. The melting of the ice in the Arctic is an irreversible phenomenon linked to this heat wave in Europe. It’s reflected here. It has a big impact on biodiversity because of the extremely high temperature here, in addition to the lack of water,» he noted.

According to the expert, research in the region is crucial in monitoring relevant developments in Brazil as well as worldwide. «What happens here in the Arctic affects Brazil, so we should have the right to speak and vote, which is not happening.»

The Arctic Council

Brazil is the only among the ten largest global economies without a voice on issues related to the region. As a result, Brazil’s scientific presence in the Arctic—a region covering more than 16 million square kilometers—can prove significant for the inclusion of the nation as an observer member of the Arctic Council, the international cooperation body on environmental strategies for the territory. The country should also join the Svalbard Treaty, which not only recognizes Norway’s sovereignty over the archipelago, but also grants access to the area’s resources for signatory nations.

«Another key fact is that the melting of the ice in the Arctic should open new trade routes and lessen the importance of the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal, which will influence global geopolitics. As a power, Brazil must make itself present,» the specialist stressed.

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