SAMS helps lead research into Arctic Ocean changes
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.