Our biodiversity research mainly focuses on benthic fauna, the invertebrate animals living on or in the seafloor. Our research aims at strengthening baseline knowledge and understanding of benthos in Arctic marine areas, as well as improving monitoring methods that rely on benthic communities as indicators of the effects of anthropogenic impacts on the seafloor environment.

Our research team uses classic benthic community analysis methodologies augmented with newer experimental methods and tools such as functional group analysis, and seafloor detection systems using remotely operated vehicles. The Biodiversity group is a key supplier of Arctic biodiversity information to national and European Union biodiversity policy guidelines.

Observing Life on the Seafloor

Benthos is a vital food source for fish, birds and marine mammals of the Arctic marine food web. The composition of benthic fauna reflects environmental conditions and follows recognizable patterns. A central aim of the biodiversity group is to understand the patterns of benthic fauna in relation to environmental properties. Through this work we have assembled a unique databank containing quantitative data sets of benthic community characteristics in both populated and remote regions of the Arctic. These data encompass numerous locations in northern Norway, Svalbard, the Barents Sea, its marginal ice zone and polar front and includes Russian waters.

Benthic Monitoring of Human Impacts

Benthic faunal analysis is a reliable method used in environmental monitoring programmes to assess environmental impacts from human activities. The biodiversity group develops monitoring methods, risk assessment tools and mitigation measures using benthic fauna based indicators. Our Biodiversity team develops new monitoring methods that rely on technologies such as underwater cameras, sampling by remotely operated vehicles, and sediment-profile imagery. They are testing these tools for specific applications, such as climate change detection, organic enrichment, coastal pollution and discharges from the petroleum industry.

Improving Biodiversity Policy Guidelines

The understanding and protection of biodiversity remains a key theme on the agenda of national, European and international policy-making bodies. For over 10 years, Akvaplan-niva's Biodiversity group has been actively engaged in national and European research programmes aimed at quantifying biodiversity. The group is recognized as a key supplier of information on Arctic biodiversity to support the development of policy guidelines and recommendations. As a result of our long-term engagement in policy development, members of the Biodiversity group now serve in direct advisory positions to the Commission for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Akvaplan-niva in Action

A beautiful Polychaete worm (Thelepus cincinnatus) found in sediments collected from the cold northern waters of the Barents Sea. <span>Image by Sabine Cochrane</span>
Russian and Norwegian researchers working side by side collecting sediments from the seafloor of the western Barents Sea. <span>Image by Chris Emblow</span>
Sorting shrimp collected by trawl from the Northern coast of the North Atlantic. <span>Image by Sabine Cochrane</span>
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For More Information

Sabine Cochrane
Tromsø, Norway

Related Reading

Improving benthic monitoring by combining trawl and grab surveys by combining trawl and grab surveys.

Jørgensen, L.L., P.E. Renaud, & Cochrane, S.K. (2011)

Marine Pollution Bulletin 62: 1183-1190.

Benthic food-web structure of an Arctic fjord (Kongsfjord, Svalbard)

Renaud P.E., M. Tessmann, A. Evenset & G.N. Christensen (2011)

Marine Biology Research 7:13-26.