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Arctic Environment

The pressure on nature and the environment in the Arctic has increased due to climate change and increased interest in raw material extraction, ship traffic and infrastructure projects. Also in Greenland, there are many activities such as mineral exploration and mine projects. Arctic Environment helps the authorities to handle and minimise the environmental consequences based on research and solid background knowledge about nature and the environment in the Arctic/Greenland.

Our research and consultancy are based on more than 50 years of work in Greenland. We play a leading role in research and research-based consultancy on the effects of pollution and human disturbances of Arctic nature. All impact should be understood in combination with climate change.

We conduct research into habitat requirements, pollution, environmental effects and biodiversity and gather knowledge in area analyses to map important nature areas and their vulnerability. We examine how different human activities, including especially exploitation of raw materials, affect nature and the environment, and how we can minimise this impact.  

We provide consultancy to Greenlandic and Danish authorities on nature and environmental issues related to, among other things, raw material activities and nature protection in the Arctic.

We participate in international research and consultancy co-operation in the Arctic Council and in the EU. In this connection, we play leading roles in the programme for monitoring of biodiversity and in projects such as research station collaboration, invasive species, mining operations and the coastal zone.

Research areas in brief

Substituting contact


Tom Christensen

Head of Section/Chief and Special Consultant

Analytical laboratory

We are running a laboratory specialized in analyses of trace elements (mostly metals) and isotopes in environmental samples. The laboratory is ISO 17025 accredited by the Danish Accreditation Fund DANAK (Accreditation no. 411), and the accreditation includes analyses of a range of trace elements in biological material, sediment/soil, freshwater and seawater. The accreditation ensures compliance with the highest analytical standards and is a requirement for the laboratory’s analytical tasks for the Danish National Monitoring and Assessment Programme for the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment (NOVANA), the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) under the Arctic Council and environmental monitoring and inspections at mine sites in Greenland for the Greenland Authorities. The laboratory tasks include tasks for the Danish and Greenland authorities and research tasks, both internal at Aarhus University and external. The laboratory has many years of experience with analyses of a broad range of environmental samples and results have been used in numerous peer-review journal publications, scientific reports and national and international assessments. More information on the laboratory can be found here.


The species, ecosystems and their vulnerability

We undertake research into the habitat requirements of species and the biodiversity of ecosystems, and we conduct area analyses to map the sensitivity and vulnerability of natural areas.


Oil in an Arctic environment – ​​pollution and environmental impacts

We advise authorities in Greenland and Denmark, including primarily the Government of Greenland, on what environmental effects oil spills can have and how activities and oil spills mitigation can be carried out with minimum risk to the environment. We have prepared a large number of strategic environmental assessments that provide an overview of the available background knowledge about nature, environment and use of the areas. These strategic environmental assessments were included in the political decision-making processes surrounding oil exploration in Greenland and were used by the oil companies when they elaborated environmental assessments of their activities (EIA reports). The strategic environmental assessments are now valuable in the environmental assessment of other activities.

A new generation of fuel oils with a low sulfur content, Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (LSFO), is being developed in order to comply with new international IMO requirements for reducing the emission of sulfur. We keep up to date with these new oils and carry out research into oil spill response options and environmental effects.


Environmental conditions in connection with raw material exploitation in Greenland

We advise on environmental issues in connection with raw material exploitation in Greenland in order to build up general knowledge about nature and the environment and understand the ecological dynamics in Greenland and the Arctic in order to assess vulnerability and the possible impact from raw material activities. This knowledge is gathered and summarised in strategic environmental assessments (SMEs), which also identify significant deficiencies and uncertainties in the knowledge that must be used to regulate, for example, oil activities.


International cooperation

Our research and advice on species and ecosystems and their vulnerability are based on more than 45 years of work in Greenland. Knowledge about the state and sensitivity of ecosystems and biodiversity in Greenland is important for the international cooperation among researchers and authorities on sustainable development in the region, e.g. the Arctic Council, where our researchers are leading in some areas, and we also participate in other international forums.

Below, some of our partners:

  • Isaaffik Arctic Gateway - Arctic dynamic web portal for everyone who works in the Arctic
  • niki.gl - information page about migratory animals in Greenland