Arc­tic ex­pe­di­tion fin­ishes mis­sion Sci­en­tists re­port on stud­ies of ocean changes

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Two un­manned ice sta­tions have been set up to ex­tend China’s abil­ity to ob­serve the north­ern seas, sci­en­tists from the Chi­nese ice­breaker Xue­long said as they wrapped up their most re­cent ex­pe­di­tion.

The do­mes­ti­cally de­vel­oped sys­tems will mon­i­tor the in­ter­ac­tion of gases, ice and the ocean in the Arc­tic re­gion. The project will con­trib­ute to stud­ies of the Arc­tic ecosys­tem and ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment, sci­en­tists said at a me­dia brief­ing on Wed­nes­day after the re­turn of Xue­long (Snow Dragon).

Other de­vices, in­clud­ing dif­fer­ent types of buoys, were also in­stalled dur­ing the 69-day ex­pe­di­tion to col­lect data — in­clud­ing sea­wa­ter tem­per­a­ture, salin­ity and drift tra­jec­tory — to even­tu­ally as­sist in the con­struc­tion of the in­ter­na­tional Arc­tic en­vi­ron­men­tal ob­ser­va­tion net­work, to im­prove the ac­cu­racy of weather fore­cast­ing and pro­vide a more re­li­able ba­sis for pre­vent­ing cli­mate dis­as­ters, said Chen Hongxia, as­sis­tant to the chief sci­en­tist of the 131mem­ber team.

Mea­sur­ing ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion and the spread of mi­croplas­tics were the other ma­jor ob­jec­tives of the ex­pe­di­tion of 23,150 kilo­me­ters, fol­low­ing on stud­ies from last year.

Ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion is in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­knowl­edged as wors­en­ing in the Arc­tic, mainly as a re­sult of ris­ing car­bon diox­ide emis­sions. Also, mi­croplas­tics may trig­ger en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters, such as the bleach­ing of coral reefs and neg­a­tive ef­fects on ma­rine bio­di­ver­sity, re­searchers said.

“After car­bon from emis­sions are ab­sorbed, the sea­wa­ter will be acid­i­fied and changes will hap­pen to the lo­cal eco­log­i­cal com­mu­nity,” said Chen, adding that more than 3,000 bot­tles of wa­ter — sam­ples from the sur­face to the sea floor — were col­lected for lab tests.

Sci­en­tists also col­lected sam­ples to test for mi­croplas­tics in var­i­ous ma­rine lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing sur­face sea­wa­ter, sed­i­ment and ma­rine or­gan­isms.

“Lab tests will be car­ried out soon and will con­trib­ute to our un­der­stand­ing of the po­ten­tial haz­ards of mi­cro- plas­tics to ecosys­tems in the Arc­tic seas,” Chen said.

Iso­tope tech­niques will be re­sorted to for the first time to study how mi­croplas­tics trans­fer works in the eco­log­i­cal sys­tem and the food chain, he said.

Mas­sive al­gal ag­gre­gates were dis­cov­ered by the ex­pe­di­tion, said Yang Huigen, di­rec­tor of the Po­lar Re­search In­sti­tute of China.

Chen added: “It means that fer­til­ity in high-al­ti­tude ar­eas is higher than we ex­pected and prob­a­bly in­di­cates that the ac­tiv­ity level of crea­tures such as shrimp, mol­lusks and fish, which eat al­gae, is higher than we imag­ined.”

Al­to­gether, 124 sound­ing bal­loons, which reach an al­ti­tude of 31,000 me­ters on av­er­age, were re­leased dur­ing the ex­pe­di­tion to ex­plore the up­per at­mos­phere, the re­searchers said.

Data ob­tained — in­clud­ing tem­per­a­ture, hu­mid­ity, air pres­sure, cloud height, vis­i­bil­ity, wind di­rec­tion and wind speed — were sent to the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion in real time and shared glob­ally to im­prove the ac­cu­racy of weather fore­cast­ing in the Arc­tic.

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