SAMS helps lead re­search into Arc­tic Ocean changes

The Oban Times - - Outdoors - DAVID McPHEE dm­cphee@oban­times.co.uk

A PRO­FES­SOR from the Scot­tish As­so­ci­a­tion for Marine Science (SAMS) at Dun­beg will help lead a £10 mil­lion re­search pro­gramme that will in­ves­ti­gate how the Arc­tic Ocean is chang­ing.

The ex­plo­ration got un­der way last week with an ex­pe­di­tion to the Bar­ents Sea. The Royal Re­search Ship James Clark Ross, left Southamp­ton on June 30, trans­port­ing the sci­en­tific team to the Arc­tic, and will re­turn on Au­gust 15.

More than 20 re­searchers from 16 dif­fer­ent UK re­search in­sti­tutes are aboard the RRS James Clark Ross to study the ef­fects of rapid warm­ing and sea ice loss in the Arc­tic re­gion.

There are 76 sci­en­tists within the pro­gramme it­self, with the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tors com­ing from SAMS – Pro­fes­sor David Pond – and Leeds and Liver­pool uni­ver­si­ties.

Four projects will cover dif­fer- ent as­pects of the pro­gramme’s goals: the way change in the Arc­tic is af­fect­ing the food chain – from small or­gan­isms at the bot­tom to large preda­tors at the top (the ARISE project), how warm­ing in­flu­ences the sin­gle main food source at the bot­tom of the food chain (DIAPOD), the ef­fect of re­treat­ing and thin­ning sea ice on nu­tri­ents and sea life in the sur­face ocean (Arc­tic PRIZE) and on the ecosys­tem at the seafloor (CHAOS).

Pro­fes­sor Pond, who leads DIAPOD, said: ‘Our project is try­ing to un­ravel the mech­a­nisms be­hind one of the largest mi­gra­tions of biomass of Earth, the sink­ing of mil­lions of tiny or­gan­isms called cope­pods each au­tumn from sur­face wa­ters to great ocean depths to hi­ber­nate over win­ter.

‘We still do not know what trig­gers their mi­gra­tion to depth or what fac­tors wake them up again to re-as­cend to the sur­face the fol­low­ing spring.

‘The DIAPOD team will be col­lect­ing sam­ples to ex­am­ine the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the mi­cro­scopic food of cope­pods to de­ter­mine if there are key com­po­nents that th­ese or­gan­isms need be­fore they can en­ter hi­ber­na­tion.’

Some of the clear­est signs of change in the Arc­tic are the thin­ning and re­treat of sea ice and the mi­gra­tion of species into the Arc­tic that nor­mally live at lower lat­i­tudes.

Th­ese changes are likely to have an un­prece­dented im­pact on how the Arc­tic ecosys­tem op­er­ates.

For ex­am­ple, as the fastest warm­ing oceanic re­gion in the world, the Arc­tic could be free of sea ice in sum­mer within a few decades.

This change is likely to af­fect the UK cli­mate and econ­omy, with an­tic­i­pated im­pacts on in­dus­tries such as tourism and fish­eries.

The re­searchers will look at a wide range of com­plex in­ter­ac­tions be­tween dif­fer­ent or­gan­isms in the ocean and on the seabed.

Dr Jo Hop­kins, from the Na­tional Oceanog­ra­phy Cen­tre and prin­ci­pal sci­en­tific of­fi­cer on the ship, said: ‘Im­prov­ing our un­der­stand­ing of how the Arc­tic ecosys­tem func­tions to­day will help us bet­ter pre­dict and man­age how it may change in the fu­ture.’

De­tails of the re­search ex­pe­di­tion and the re­search pro­gramme can be found at http:// www.nerc.ac.uk/re­search/ funded/ pro­grammes/ arc­tic­o­cean/ and https://arc­ti­carise. word­press.com.

More than 20 re­searchers have joined the RRS James Clark Ross for the Arc­tic in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Pho­to­graph: Bri­tish Antarc­tic Sur­vey.

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