Our research focuses on improving understanding of Arctic marine organisms, the structure and functioning of populations and communities, and food web dynamics. We explore how environmental variability interacts with biological components in order to better evaluate and predict how natural phenomena and human activities impact ecosystems. Our research efforts generally focus on Arctic marine benthic communities as the central component, but extend to overlying pelagic and ice-associated systems and processes, as well as the biogeochemistry of sediments.
Research results also contribute to improvement of ecosystem models and are used to create better societal decision-making tools such as threshold criteria, models and new assessment methods.
The current attention to climate change sometimes overlooks the fact that the marine environment is inherently variable, and that ecosystem components are adapted to certain ranges of variability. Akvaplan-niva’s Climate & Ecosystems group focuses on understanding how different species and populations respond to and interact with local and large-scale climate variability. We do this by combining in situ observational studies focusing on ecosystem structure with experimental manipulations on key system processes. This combined approach provides insight into how components of the Arctic marine biological system are linked to their environment over a range of spatial and temporal scales.
We seek understanding of how community structure at different seafloor locations is related to oceanographic and sedimentary characteristics, primary production dynamics, and the role of ice algae in nutrition of Arctic fauna. We also study how climate variability impacts the physiological condition of fish and modelthe influence of benthic faunal activities on organic carbon turnover and storage. The impact of climate change may be felt by ecosystems in many ways. Acidification (decreasing pH in the oceans) is a direct effect of climate change that may alter organism function and community interactions. Akvaplan-niva scientists are employing state-of-the-art methodologies to investigate potential impacts of ocean acidification on early life stages of both seafloor and pelagic organisms.
Determining what the future may hold for Arctic ecosystems requires placing our present day observations in context with the past. Akvaplan-niva maintains time-series data sets of benthic community structure using standardized protocols at several key locations in Norway, the Barents Sea, and Svalbard over a wide range of environmental settings. As benthic fauna have proven valuable indicators of natural and anthropogenic system changes, these long-term datasets serve as valuable baselines by which to assess responses of organisms and communities to environmental changes in the past and to the present day. To expand our time scales even further, Akvaplan-niva has been at the leading edge of developing clams as sentinels of change in the Arctic. The shells of both living and fossil clams contain information on growth rate patterns and geochemical signatures over time. Extracting this information, Akvaplan-niva scientists are able to reconstruct past environmental changes and ecological responses extending over decades to hundreds of years.