Seasonal development and community composition of sympagic meiofauna in Eastern Svalbard (Sympagic)

Sea ice is a vital component of the Arctic ecosystem. In this study the seasonal development of the poorly known organisms living inside sea ice (sympagic meiofauna) is studied in Eastern Svalbard.

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Project type

  • field work
  • arctic field grant (afg)


  • marine biology

Project Keywords

  • biological classification / protists / diatoms
  • oceans / marine biology / marine invertebrates
  • oceans / marine biology / marine microbiota
  • oceans / sea ice / ice depth/thickness
  • oceans / sea ice / ice temperature
  • oceans / sea ice / snow depth

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Sea ice is a vital component of the Arctic ecosystem. Ice algae growing within and at the bottom of sea ice, serve as an early nutritious food source to both pelagic zooplankton and sessile benthic organisms before the onset of the phytoplankton bloom, which commences once sea ice breaks up and more light is able to penetrate into the underlying water column. The microscopic organisms that inhabit the brine channels in the interior of the ice are known as sympagic (ice-associated) meiofauna (> 20 ?m). Allochthonous (not indigenous) sympagic meiofauna originate from the pelagic and benthic realm and inhabit first-year ice to feed and fuel growth and development, as well as take refuge from predators. Commonly, the biocenosis in seasonal sea ice consists of polychaete larvae, nematodes, acoel turbellarians, ice-associated copepods, rotifers and eggs from various organisms. Most studies of these communities have focused on perennial ice with the exception of a few along the Alaskan coastline (Gradinger et al. 2009). In Svalbard, sympagic meiofauna abundance and diversity, in Svalbard’s coastal marine ecosystems, have been going on since 2014 through regular student field campaigns organised by the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). These studies have mainly been conducted in Van Mijenfjorden a seasonal ice covered fjord in West-Spitsbergen, influenced by warmer Atlantic water and thus no direct contact to the Arctic Ocean pack ice. In Eastern Svalbard the hydrography and seasonal ice cover are very different from West-Spitsbergen and a direct connection to the Arctic Ocean pack ice exist seasonally. The main aim of this project is to determine the seasonal development and biodiversity of sympagic meiofauna in the little explored coastal zones in Eastern Svalbard. This project is two-fold; i) seasonal sampling of sea ice cores in Agardh/Inglefieldbukta and ii) species identification by molecular tools. Field work will be conducted by snow mobiles from February to June 2018. In July/August we aim to sample by boat.

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