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Ice thawing stops flora and fauna development in the Arctic – scientists

December 25, 2017, 19:48 UTC+3 MURMANSK

The outgoing year’s expeditions were very productive for the scientists

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© Lev Fedoseyev/TASS

MURMANSK, December 26. /TASS/. Scientists of the Murmansk Marine Biology Institute finished a big Arctic expedition, during which they made a few discoveries about the marine flora and fauna. The Institute’s Deputy Director General Pavel Makarevich told TASS the scientists now can explain why the water area, developing from ice thawing, remains uninhabited.

The scientists fixed the fact that the ice thawing - due to the warming - does not affect the ocean’s productivity, that is growth of flora and fauna, he said. "Formerly, we used to believe the less ice we have the more light the flora receives and thus the bigger becomes the photosynthesis and plankton’s development, and consequently the growing fauna, first of all the growing populations of commercial species," he added.

The Murmansk biologists explain this situation by saying the ice is a natural storage of plankton’s spores, which get frozen into it, and in spring as the ice thaws they begin growing on the bottom. Thus, if there is no ice, the process stops, and plankton does not reproduce. Consequently, fish and marine animals would not come there. At the same time, the scientists say the ice reduction is temporary, and reverse developments will begin soon. The expedition’s other results, including those related to the Arctic’s pollution, would be published after the tests are processed, the scientist said, adding it would be around February 2018.

Trip to Spitsbergen

The Spitsbergen Archipelago is unique for studies, as it has been inhibited for quite a long time. The Institute continues research works in the archipelago’s area since the 1960s. The recent expedition took over the research, which scientists began in April and July. The Institute’s works were financed by the federal agency of scientific organizations.

The Institute’s 30-day trip on board the Dalniye Zelentsy research vessel was towards Spitsbergen. Scientists worked there and, on the route to the archipelago, also worked in the Barents and Norway Seas. The institute’s vessel is Russia’s only research vessels, which works near Spitsbergen - under an agreement on joint research between the Institute and the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).

The scientists from Murmansk jointly with experts from the Institute of Arctic and Antarctic and from the University Centre in Svalbard during the polar day in July and during the polar night in November made a wide complex of studies. They measured temperatures, salt, hydro-chemical structure of the sea water, took tests of microorganisms and zooplankton and in order to assess anthropogenic impact they took tests of seawater; and tests of bottom sediment should show chemical and radioactive contamination.

From plankton to whales

The outgoing year’s expeditions were very productive for the scientists. They found microalgae at the depth of 300 meters, while formerly specialists believed alga could grow at maximum 40-50 meters since the light would not go further down, Makarevich told TASS.

Another big discovery was about the Arctic’s biggest animals - Greenland Whales, or rather their east-Atlantic population, which is on the Red Book list. Only about 100 whales of the kind have been registered in the world. During the expedition, the Murmansk scientists could see along the ice edge in April as many as twelve whales.

The scientists also registered the changes, caused by the climate warming, which reflect in water temperatures. According to the expedition’s members, the thermophile species of plants and animals are moving northbound as they follow the melting ice. During the spring expedition, researchers found about 15 kinds of plankton, which had never lived in those latitudes.

Other migrants are animals, the so-called bottom communities - shellfish, crabs, some kinds of fish. The scientists saw needle-fish - the Arctic relative of well-known fish living in the Red Sea - hundreds of kilometers to the south from the place, formerly considered to be its areal.

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