The Arctic is facing the climate change harder than any other parts of the northern hemisphere. The West Spitsbergen current is transporting warm water from the Gulf Stream resulting in decreased ice conditions, even in the fjords during winter. This reduction in sea ice leads to less ice scouring which enables establishment of a richer littoral vegetation. Studies from 1996/98 and a comparison done in 2012/13 showed a significant increase in the number of littoral macroalgal species at Hansneset in Kongsfjorden. At the same time a change in the depth distribution of kelp was proven. This project will revisit the same site as studied in 2012/13 and will study if any further changes can be explored. By using the same methods, hand picking in the littoral and collection by divers in the sublittoral, the project will also study the species composition and kelp distribution down to 20 - 25 m depth. Earlier observations have shown that the maximum depth of kelp species has been pushed upwards towards the surface, probably as a result of an increased turbidity in water caused by an increased run off from land as the glaciers are melting faster. Sampled material that are not possible to identify by using traditional morphological characters will be solved by using molecular methods. It is considered important to follow the shifts in vegetation in order to monitor the changes in the Arctic.
This project is in close operation the the AWI project Biology of Arctic benthic macroalgae (KOL 06). Principle investigator Dr. Inka Bartsch.