Biology of Arctic benthic macroalgae (KOL 06)

Arctic benthic communities can be regarded as sensitive indicators of environmental change. The long-term project KOL 06 – Biology of Arctic benthic algae aims at an holistic understanding of how marine macroalgae as ecosystem components of utmost ecological importance to coastal ecosystem functioning will respond to environmental perturbation.

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  • field work
  • long-term monitoring


  • marine biology

Project Keywords

  • biosphere / aquatic ecosystems / benthic habitat

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Marine macroalgae represent ecosystem components of utmost importance, serving as primary producers, food source, habitat and shelter to a vast variety of associated organisms. In high latitude systems macroalgae have to cope with challenging environmental factors being low temperature and a highly seasonal light climate. The high Arctic has been identified as sensitive region, in which impacts of global climate change will primarily be manifested. Arctic benthic communities might therefore be regarded as sensitive indicators at the onset of environmental change. The long-term project KOL06: Biology of Arctic benthic algae aims at an holistic understanding of how these central ecosystem components will respond to environmental perturbation. These subprojects are conceptualised for the 2015 season: (1.) Ecophysiology of Arctic seaweeds: Life-strategies and acclimation to abiotic stressors. We will be addressing the protective role of parental kelp plants forming canopies potentially shielding young kelp recruits against harmful radiation. This project will include a thorough characterisation of the radiation climate inside kelp canopies and will test recruitment of kelp under simulated in situ conditions. With this focussed approach we will address the question: What are the irradiances of UV-radiation and photosynthetically active radiation kelp recruits do actually receive in the canopy and are those irradiances ecologically relevant to impair kelp reproduction? (2.) Impact of global warming on Polar seaweeds - consequences for community structure and spatial distribution. In this project, the interspecific competition of the brown kelp species Alaria esculenta and Saccharina latissima will be studied under present and future summer temperatures and at different light levels. During the 2015 campaign the project will focus to answer the question to what extent competitive relationships of two co-occurring kelp species might be modulated by a changing light and temperature regime with a combination of in situ and laboratory experiments. With respect to the experimental approach working with suspensions of kelp zoospores which will be seeded on tiles and to the documentation of the abiotic environment subproject KOL 06a and 06b will closely interact. (3.) Hidden biodiversity in Arctic Laminaria species with divided lamina. This subproject represents a new and timely approach for the 2015 season. Latest taxonomic studies on kelps using molecular biological fingerprinting methods revealed that the Arctic kelp species ‘Laminaria digitata’ in fact consists of two morphologically similar species, namely Laminaria digitata Kjellmann and Saccharina groenlandica Rosenvinge. Thus, a taxonomic re-evaluation of kelp species inhabiting Kongsfjorden is an urgent and important task. The sub-project is focused around a MSc thesis and specifically will try to find reliable morpho-anatomical markers backed-up with molecular fingerprinting methods that will enable species determination of field material in future. This approach is indispensable and highly beneficial to all other ongoing and future projects on kelps in Kongsfjorden and beyond.

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