Zooplankton dynamics in ice free versus ice covered fjords in Svalbard

The overall aim of this study was to identify potential ecological impacts, both negative and positive, as a consequence of failure in sea ice formation in coastal Arctic marine ecosystems. Comparision of the zooplankton community composition and development during the critical winter-spring transition in an ice free vs ice covered fjord.

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Project type

  • field work
  • data management
  • arctic field grant (afg)


  • marine biology
  • terrestrial biology

Project Keywords

  • biological classification / animals/invertebrates / rotifers

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Fjords and coastal waters are among the most productive regions in the high Arctic. Here a strong coupling between sea and land exists, and shallow bottom depths create a tight pelagic-benthic coupling. Ecological consequences due to failure in sea ice formation are poorly addressed. Studies during the critical winter-spring transition when many pelagic and benthic invertebrates reproduces are poorly addressed due to challenging field work when fjords are frozen. Many benthic invertebrates with reduced mobility produce pelagic larvae which may occur in the water column from days to weeks to feed and grow, for so to colonize new areas. Tiny egg and larva of benthic invertebrates and zooplankton may temporarily reach several thousand individuals per m-3 water in early spring, and these may also utilize the sea ice as habitat and nursery ground (Marquardt et al 2011), inhabiting the small brine channels where they find food (ice algae and bacteria) and shelter for predators (Gradinger et al 2005, Poulin et al 2011). Successful recruitment of pelagic and benthic invertebrates are critical since these invertebrates are important prey items for several species of anadromous and marine fish, sea- and tundra birds in Arctic coastal waters. Failure in sea ice formation and earlier runoff from snowmelt will create significant changes in primary production and terrestrial carbon input to coastal waters (Dunton et al 2012) , which in turn may alter the secondary production with cascading effects for the entire food web (Carmack & Wassmann 2006). In this project, I will study the seasonal development in the zooplankton community in the ice covered Van Mijenfjorden and the ice-free Adventfjorden in Svalbard from February to May. These two contrasting fjords can be used as model systems for a present cold and a future warmer climate, respectively. The overall goal of this MSc project is to determine, in parallel, the zooplankton community in these two contrasting climates to determine the role of sea ice for timing of reproduction and successful development in coastal marine ecosystems.

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