The project has been focusing on several common bivalves with a different history and distributional pattern in different Arctic regions; the blue mussel (Mytilus sp), the Arctic scallop (Chlamys islandica) and the horse mussel (Modiulus modiulus). The project has compared distribution and ecophysiology in three key areas of the Norwegian Sea, the white sea and Svalbard. Detailed descriptions of the biology and reproductive cycle of the bivalves, as well as measurement of the baseline levels of the biomarkers in blue mussels over the entire year and at different locations provided a unique database on how these vary across seasons and locations. Changes in the levels of the biomarkers in blue mussels in a environmentally relevant marine diesel exposure experiment followed by analyses of growth and reproductive status have allowed for accessing the sensitivity of the mussels to marine diesel and impact on later growth and reproductive development.
The project has also been aimed at understanding the distribution patterns and way of dispersal of the blue mussel in Svalbard waters, a region where the first living blue mussels were recorded as late as in September 2004. Until now, there has been several hypotheses regarding their history and mode of dispersal; some authors have claimed that the blue mussels discovered on Svalbard are in fact relict populations of the North American M. trossulus and that they have most likely been present on Svalbard since the last glaciation ended 10k years ago. Other have claimed that the blue mussels on Svalbard are M. edulis and that they have dispersed from a seeding population along the North-Norwegian coast, whereas yet others have claimed they have most likely arrived by way of human vectors (ballast waters or fouling organisms on the hull of ships). While the latter can never be really disregarded as a plausible explanation, a population genetic study carried out as part of COOPENOR unequivocally rejects the relict population hypotheses. Rather, molecular evidence strongly suggests that the blue mussels found on Svalbard are most closely related to those on the mainland Norway.
COOPENOR has been an important project that has increased cooperation and integration of results from both Norway and Russia, and has as a consequence been important for more knowledge based environmental management at both sides of the border.
The Arctic has recently become a centre of attention with increasing human activities and warming of the climate affecting the marine ecosystem. In this context of increasing anthropogenic pressure in an ecosystem considered fragile and pristine, there is a need to study the basic biology of Arctic key species and their sensitivities to combined human and environmental pressures through a holistic approach. Coastal and shelf areas are considered the most valuable, but at the same time most sensitive, part of the Arctic. It is therefore important to better characterize these ecosystems in a changing environment and under additional pollutant stress. Mussels (Mytilus spp.) and the Icelandic scallop (Chlamys islandica) are considered ideal sentinel species i n the coastal and shelf water ecosystems, respectively. Three different locations within the Arctic, the Greenland Sea (Svalbard), the South Barents Sea and the White Sea will be closely monitored over a full annual cycle to describe spatial and temporal changes in the basic biology of the selected indicator species, as affected by specific physical and biological conditions. Further, at each location, the response to petroleum-related pollution will be studied at specific time points to reflect intra-ann ual changes in their susceptibility to such stress factors. This project will offer a unique and holistic understanding of the biology and tolerance of two important Arctic key species to multiple stresses, including anthropogenic pollution and stress fac tors related to climate change. A valuable aspect of this work is the creation of a dataset that will be integrated into relevant guideline documents for environmental monitoring at the European level. The project is aiming its attention towards basic and applied scientific questions that are of paramount importance for both understanding effects of climate change in the Arctic as well as environmental monitoring and control of marine pollution.