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FRINATEK-Fri mat.,naturv.,tek

Unravelling hidden processes at the Aurora seamount: connectivity and biogeography of hydrothermal vents in the deep Arctic ocean

Alternative title: Løsning av skjulte prosesser ved Aurora sjøfelt: Tilkobling og biogeografi av undervannsventilene i det dype arktiske havet

Awarded: NOK 3.5 mill.

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Project Period:

2019 - 2023


Arctic hydrothermal chimneys could be an important piece of the puzzle in understanding how different vent populations are connected, since they could provide a key pathway for the connectivity of animal populations between ocean basins. Currently, this project will embark upon its second cruise to the hydrothermal vents within the Gakkel Ridge, which lie below the ice in the Arctic Ocean at the impressive depth of 4000 m. To gain access to such a challenging location underneath the ice, an international team of researchers sailed on the ice-breaker R/V Kronprins Haakon to the Aurora vent field. We will utilise a brand new ROV, which can sample animals under permanent ice cover and visualise the hydrothermal vent community. While we have been waiting for the second research expedition and the first samples from the vents, we have compiled a database which shows the distribution of chemosynthesis based fauna from all over the world. This database is now ready and once we have identified the animals on the Arctic vents, we will be able to distinguish how the Arctic vent populations fit within the global biodiversity patterns by deciding how similar or unique the species are to other vent areas.

Understanding the role played by deep Arctic ecosystems in global biodiversity, ecosystem function and services is important in the current changing oceans. New knowledge on these still pristine ecosystems and, in particular, understanding population connectivity, are critical when defining spatial management strategies. The complex deep Arctic ecosystems on the Gakkel Ridge have been suggested as pathways for larval dispersal between ocean basins, but visual confirmation of the first Arctic vents under sea-ice, the Aurora vent field (82.5°N), was not obtained until 2014, and the dispersal potential of vent fauna remains poorly understood and entirely unknown for Arctic communities. AURORA will push forward the frontiers of deep-sea and Arctic research, in collaboration with the FRINATEK-HACON project, unraveling the physical, bathymetric and ecological processes that drive population connectivity of vent and seamount species in the Arctic. The overall goal of AURORA is to evaluate the role of the Gakkel Ridge as a connectivity pathway between ocean basins and asses its biogeographic status at the global scale, producing novel knowledge of a pristine region as well as essential scientifically-robust data for future management plans. My expertise and the support provided by the two hosts and the HACON project ensure that I can address this goal with the highest scientific standards. I will conduct the first dispersal study for deep Arctic vent and seamount species using biophysical tools during the outgoing phase at the Uni. Aveiro (Portugal), and apply the acquired skills and data to analyse vent biogeographic patterns during the return phase at NIVA (Norway). AURORA is organised around 3 WPs, including 2 research WPs (WP1-connectivity, UAVR; WP2-biogeography, NIVA), and a cross-cutting WP focusing on my Personal Career Plan (WP3). Transversal communication and dissemination plans for the whole project have been carefully designed.


FRINATEK-Fri mat.,naturv.,tek