Microbial communities, activities, drivers, and fluxes in a shallow tidewater influenced fjord, Billefjorden. (Microbial communities and fluxes in the cryosphere)

The aim of the project is to study the roles of microbes in the cryosphere and their role for biogeochemical cycles. We study communities on glaciers, in the fjords and in and underneath sea ice. Microscopy and in situ experiments will be used in spring, summer, autumn, and Winter. We study biogeochemical activities of different taxa.

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Project type

  • field work
  • remote sensing
  • modelling
  • arctic field grant (afg)


  • marine biology
  • terrestrial biology
  • cryosphere
  • oceanography

Project Keywords

  • oceans / marine biology / marine microbiota
  • oceans / coastal processes / fjords
  • oceans / marine sediments / particle flux
  • oceans / ocean chemistry / biogeochemical cycles
  • oceans / coastal processes
  • oceans / marine biology
  • terrestrial hydrosphere / glaciers/ice sheets
  • oceans / sea ice

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Microbial communities in high Arctic fjords can be affected by sea ice formation and glacial meltwater input. Both processes are changing drastically with a changing climate. Sea ice can act as a habitat for specific sea ice algae, adapted to low light but dependent on substrates. Glaciers are known to harbor a large variety of specific snow algae and cyanobacteria, as well as chemolithoautotrophic bacteria and archaea. These organisms have been shown to be important for supplying the glacial system with nutrients, such as reduced iron, and nitrogen. The importance of icebergs for iron inputs has been shown in Antarctica, but the direct effects on high Arctic fjords are, yet, hardly studied. We will investigate microbial communities, their biomass and viability together with potential environmental controls, such as nutrient concentrations and iron fertilisation by the glacier. We will study the role of microbial communities and physiology on downward export fluxes. Additionally, microalgae will be cultured and screened for their biotechnological potential. Microbial community structures will be studied in the field, using Nanopore MinION sequencing technologies for sequencing 16S and 18S genes and microscopy. Fluxes will be measured via short term sediment traps. Nutrient, POC, PON, and chlorophyll, will be sampled in the field and measured in Tromsø. Multivariate analyses will be used to investigate the connectivity and most important environmental controls on bacteria, archaea, microalgae, microzooplankton, and ichtyoplankton communities in the fjords. Sampling in the light winter and in early summer will help to differentiate sea ice ecosystems and the same system controlled by glacial meltwater input. The second part of the project studies the carbon cycle in the fjord system. Radiotracer or stable isotope incubations will quantify the role of nitrification, photosynthesis, and heterotrophic production. Fluorescent staining methods will help to quantify microalgae on a single cell level and their viability and activity. NGS sequencing methods will help to quantify active chemoautotrophic bacteria and archaea. Together, these methods will help to understand the role of different taxa for carbon cycling with a focus on primary production during different times of the year.

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