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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Who is there? - Unravelling the biodiversity of sympagic meiofauna in Svalbard

Awarded: NOK 48,073

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Project Period:

2022 - 2022

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It is undeniable that sea ice conditions and extent are changing. Formation of fjordic sea ice has become unreliable, the season has changed with later onset of freezing and earlier melt, and much uncertainty evolves around how this will affect the community that inhabits the microscopic brine channels within sea ice. Sympagic meiofauna are tiny invertebrates living inside of sea ice and are not much studied due to the expertise knowledge associated with their identification. However, it is essential to be able to identify the inhabitants of the sea ice labyrinth to the lowest taxonomic level possible to assess the potential ecological implications changing conditions will have on these critters. We are uncertain about what concrete role sea ice plays in their life cycle and whether they are dependent on it for reproduction and development. Identifying "who" rather than "what" lives in sea ice might aid us in answering such questions. It is vital information needed to assess what biodiversity we might be losing. In addition to traditional taxonomic methods, molecular tools have proven to be extremely useful, especially in uncovering cryptic species and hidden biodiversity. The application of metabarcoding to investigate not only the ice algal community, but also the meiofauna and potential fungal diversity, in fjordic ice, has not been done before in Svalbard. We want to use this approach to map the sea ice biodiversity, from different locations, to complement our taxonomic data. The data will also become more comparable with other studies this way, as metabarcoding is at the forefront of biodiversity studies.

Funding scheme:

SSF-Svalbard Science Forum