Research activity at the K.G. Jebsen Centre for Deep Sea Research (JC-DeepSea) is organised into 7 work packages. These work packages are tightly interconnected. They are multidisciplinary, and they are designed to translate knowledge from basic to applied research.
The themes of the seven work packages are:
- WP1 - Crustal accretion at ultraslow spreading ridges
- WP2 - Diversity and functioning of hydrothermal systems
- WP3 - Deep sea mineral resources
- WP4 - Hydrothermal reactions
- WP5 - Geochemical energy landscapes and life
- WP6 - Biodiscovery and bioprospecting
- WP7 - Deep Sea Ecosystems
Crustal accretion at ultraslow spreading ridges
This work package deals with the processes that are forming the oceanic crust. It particularly focuses on the ultra-slow spreading ridges. These spreading ridges are the least understood part of the global, 60 000 km long mid-ocean ridge system. The Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridges (AMOR), which run through the Norwegian-Greenland Sea and into the polar basin, are ultra-slow ridges.
A central objective of this work package is to advance our understanding of the volcanic activity taking place at such ridges and its interaction with tectonic processes. Such understanding is key to understanding the hydrothermal activity involved.
Much of the work focuses on taking images of the volcanic seafloor in unprecedented resolution using autonomic underwater vehicles carrying novel sonar systems. For the first time, we are able to map at a scale that enables us to do volcanological studies right on the seafloor. Combining the mapping with detailed sampling, geochronology and geochemical analyses, gives us information about the architecture and evolution of deep sea volcanoes. This information has implications for our general understanding of seafloor spreading and our results are fundamental for WP2 and WP3.
Diversity and functioning of hydrothermal systems
This work package addresses the diversity and functioning of deep sea hydrothermal activity.
Studies by CGB and other groups have shown that hydrothermal activity at ultra-slow spreading ridges is more abundant than previously believed. Hydrothermal systems along the AMOR are the primary targets.
We are now exploring new parts of the AMOR to investigate the extent and diversity of hydrothermal activity here. By monitoring selected sites with a range of sensors, we are also looking into the functioning of different vent fields to better understand the subsurface processes and constrain the fluid flow and fluxes. This information has given us a further overall understanding of the impacts of hydrothermal activity to the oceans in general.
This WP has implications for our understanding of seafloor - ocean interactions, and for our awareness of the unique habitats that are present in the national and international waters of the Arctic. It provides information to all the other work packages.
Contact person: Thibaut Barreyre
Deep sea mineral resources
This WP deals primarily with assessing the economic potential of deep-sea mineral resources forming at deep-sea hot vents along the AMOR. The focus is on investigating the ore geology and the economic potential of deposits at active and extinct vent sites that we already have discovered and at new sites that we have discover as part of this Centre program. We are using novel sensors carried by AUVs and ROVs to constrain the metal inventory at representative ridge segments.
Combining our statistical analyses with our understanding of the ridge system, we are able to estimate the resource potential, with a particular focus on Norwegian national waters. The results from this package have industrial and societal implications and are making important contributions to policy making.
This WP involves experimental approaches. Laboratory-based hydrothermal experiments using heated, pressurized, batch and flow-through reactors represent a powerful way to develop and test hypotheses on geochemical processes in seafloor hydrothermal systems.
In this work package we aim to fill critical knowledge gaps in the behaviour of metal stable isotopes during ore-forming, hydrothermal conditions. We are also investigate the generation of small organic compounds that provide fuel for the 'deep hot biosphere' in ocean crust.
Both objectives aim to fundamentally enhance our understanding of ore deposits and carbon cycling in oceanic crust, with important economic, geo- and astrobiological implications. The work package links directly to WP3 and WP5.
Geochemical Energy landscapes and life
This WP deals with microbial life in extreme environments and in the deep biosphere. It investigates microbial ecosystems at seafloor hot springs and in the vast microbial biosphere present below the seafloor.
In both environments, life depends on the chemical energy derived from the reduction and oxidation of elements and compounds. Whereas the amount chemical energy is generally low in the stable subsurface environment, it is abundant at hot springs where the environment is extremely dynamic. By probing and comparing the end-member systems present at hydrothermal locations, we aim to reveal fundamental relationships between life and energy. This has implications for our understanding of important biogeochemical systems on Earth.
As part of this effort, we are also screening a range of microbial ecosystems searching for novel organisms. We are finding organisms that will provide us with potential breakthroughs in our understanding of microbiology and that will have major implications for our understanding of the evolution of life – such as our recent discovery of the Lokiarchaeota (Spang, Saw, Jørgensen et al. 2015).
This work package is closely linked to four of the other work packages (WP2, WP4, WP6, WP7).
Contact person: Håkon Dahle
Biodiscovery and bioprospecting
This WP explores the microbial ecosystems at seafloor hot springs from a biodiscovery and bioprospecting perspective. The deep sea environment provides a broad range of diverse and extreme habitats from which enzymes and other interesting biomolecules can be derived.
We are searching for novel biomolecules that can be utilized in industrial processes where thermo-resistant enzymes are needed. Incubators are deployed at a range of hydrothermal habitats and this novel, in situ approach is designed to harvest microorganisms of specific industrial interest. Genes from natural samples will also be fed into enzyme discovery pipelines.
In general this work package has implications for how we assess the deep sea as a future resource, and how this resource should be managed. The work package is closely linked to WP2 and WP5.
Contact person: Runar Stokke
Deep Sea Ecosystems and environments
This WP investigates the organisms and deep-water ecosystems found along mid-ocean ridges in the northernmost Atlantic, with a main focus on hydrothermal systems and poorly known ecosystems and nature types inhabiting seamounts along the ridge. These ecosystems have thus far received little research and conservation attention.
Firstly, the project are expanding our knowledge base by filling in the gaps in our understanding regarding the diversity, distribution, functioning as well as the “goods and services” provided by these ecosystems. For this we are using survey, in-situ and in-lab technologies and cross-disciplinary conceptual approaches.
In addition we are studying the main threats and impacts posed upon these ecosystems. We are also integrating the ecosystem functioning into future management plans, aiming to develop tools for improved preservation and sustainable use of these Atlantic marine ecosystems and resources.
The work package is linked to WP1, WP2, WP5 and WP6.
Contact person: Mari Heggernes Eilertsen