Climate change and increased erosion are retreating the Arctic coastline by half a metre every year, according to a new study by more than 30 scientists from 10 countries.
This implies substantial changes for Arctic ecosystems near the coast and the population living there.
The researchers investigated over 100,000 km and thus a fourth of all Arctic coasts and have published their results for the first time.
The changes are particularly dramatic in the Laptev, East Siberian and Beaufort Seas, where coastal erosion rates reach more than 8 metres a year in some cases.
Since around a third of the world's coasts are located in the Arctic permafrost, coastal erosion may affect enormous areas in future.
Up to now they have been protected against the eroding force of the waves by large sea ice areas. Due to the continuous decline in sea ice, this protection is jeopardised.
Two-thirds of the Arctic coasts do not consist of rock, but of frozen soft substrate (permafrost). And precisely these coasts are extremely hard hit by erosion. As a rule, Arctic regions are quite thinly populated.
"The Arctic is developing more and more into a mirror of various drivers of global change and into a focal point of national and worldwide economic interest," said Hartwig Kremer, head of the joint project Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone.
The finding is reported in the journal Estuaries and Coasts.