The coastal waters of Central Norway showcase a great biodiversity. The Froan archipelago and the coral reefs of the Sula rise are highly productive, with several species of fish, clams and crab. Results from SINTEF's ocean model system SINMOD indicate that the region has a high primary production that is linked to various physical processes. Despite the region's ecological and economical significance, there has been no research project that has fully investigated the basic driving forces behind the structures and functions of the marine ecosystem in Froan. ENTiCE aims to fill this gap. It is a project in which modelling, ocean space technology and biological sciences are joined.
In the project, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have successfully performed several missions using adaptive data collection, which enabled the craft to effectively bring back information with high scientific content. Using ideas from artificial intelligence, statistics, and oceanography, the AUV continuously calculated and re-planned the sampling strategy using ocean model data and in-field measurements. The methods developed can detect, track, and map ocean phenomena in ways that are not possible using conventional approaches. In addition to mapping the coastal environment, the method allows for cross validation of the ocean model itself, improving the model accuracy. AUVs have collected data on Chl a (phytoplankton biomass), hydrography, and oxygen and have been used in combination with new sensors to measure in situ photosynthesis and for enumeration and identification of both phyto- and zooplankton.
Model results and hydrographic data show that the Froan is a complex and dynamic coastal area that are under great influence by tidal mixing and internal waves. Fast Repetion Rate fluormeter (FRRf) to estimate photosynthesis, irradiance and Chl a have been proven to be successful both as a profiling instrument on a frame and on Remotely Oparetated Vehicle. Likewise, Silhoutte Cameras (SilCam) have been giving us high quality images that are used to identify and enumerate mero- and holozooplankton.
In addition to these new enabling technologies, a comprehensive dataset has been collected covering the productive season starting in March 2017 with buoy data and from April with additional weekly sampling. The combined in situ and lab data are used to enhance knowledge regarding phyto- and zooplankton dynamics in the area and to understand how environmental cues such as light, nutrients and currents alter the plankton dynamics in time and space. Internal wave activity result in an upward transport of nutrient rich water that is mixed into the upper water masses. The strong tidal mixing in the bank region seem to be favorable for large phytoplankton and cause marine snow formation that in turn may increase ecological efficiency.
The marine resources along the Norwegian Coast provide economic and social viability based on the commercial exploitation of fish, kelp and shellfish stocks, as well as aquaculture, tourism and other activities. Knowledge based management of the coastal zones depends on wide knowledge of our marine ecosystems, their structure, function and how they respond to combined stress from exploitation of the resources, exposure to pollutants (e.g. waste disposal from mining, industrial and municipal wastewater) and climate change. The primary goal of ENTiCE is to quantify how physical forcing (e.g. tidal mixing and upwelling) controls the nutrient availability and light regime and thereby impacts productivity, community structure and function in a highly productive coastal region along the Norwegian Coast. The secondary goal is to create enabling technology beyond state of the art for cost effective and high quality sampling. These objectives will be achieved by developing, testing and deploying technology and model systems with an inter-disciplinary group of scientists and engineers with a significant outreach component for local high-school students. The impact of the project will be better ecosystem understanding, knowledge based resource management, and decision making, for complex dynamic coastal ecosystems.