The Arctic Ocean is changing to a warmer and ice-free state, which may lead to substantial changes in biodiversity and ecosystem structures. An Atlantification of the zooplankton community is ongoing, and tiny invertebrates living in sea ice, assumed to be autochthonous are likely to face extinction with the loss of summer sea ice. The aim of this project is to 1) determine the fate of boreal zooplankton carried into the Arctic Ocean, 2) revise Calanus spp. species distribution and reproductive success in the main inflow path to the Arctic Ocean (N Svalbard/ N Barents Sea) and 3) determine the destiny of ice fauna when the summer sea ice disappears. Molecular analyses of not yet analysed ethanol zooplankton samples obtained during the N-ICE campaign from February to June 2015 will be essential for the project, as well as analysis of new samples that will be collected during the Nansen Legacy cruises in 2019-2020 and the MOSAiC transpolar drift the same year. In addition, regular UNIS student cruises will provide another sampling platform where students will be actively engaged in this project work. Ice fauna dependency on sea ice will be investigated by comparing Arctic Ocean ice fauna species composition (with a focus on meiofauna) with extensive sea ice meiofauna dataset from Svalbard fjords. This exercise will provide new insight into factors that may allow sea ice fauna to maintain populations despite lack of sea ice, as species occurring in landfast sea ice in Svalbard fjords are likely to have benthic or pelagic stages. This project will contribute with essential knowledge for making better predictions of the ecosystem impacts of global warming and disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
UNIS – Universitetssenteret på Svalbard
Project manager: Janne E. Søreide
Project code: 1182018