BIO researchers go exploring!
Researchers from the Marine Biodiversity research group, are embarking on the first in a series of research cruises to the relatively unexplored waters of Sognefjord.
Together with scientist from the Benthic habitat group at IMR, they plan to learn more about the longest and deepest fjord in Norway. With a maximum depth of over 1300m, Sognefjord is actually the deepest fjord in the world. Extending inland over 200km, it provides researchers with a unique environment for studying dispersal and connectivity – research themes that are central to the understanding of biodiversity.
Professor Henrik Glenner explains that the Sognefjord project, which is funded by the Species Databank of Norway, Artsdatabanken, involves close collaboration with the Institute of Marine Research. In particular, they will use the experience from the visual inspection of the seafloor developed in the MAREANO programme. They will also collaborate with researchers from BIO's Marine Microbiology research group, who have built up a large long-term data set concerning the microbiology in this area, as well as with researchers with zoology expertise from the University Museum of Bergen and from NIVA.
The focus is on benthic or bottom fauna and the researchers will be using video technology to survey the fjord bottom. For this they will use the Campod video rig.
Glenner explains that the fauna here is relatively unexplored and unknown. As increasing aquaculture and tourism impact this area it is particularly important to find out what is actually living there.
The Sognefjord system presents researchers with some unique opportunities. The main fjord represents a landlocked deep sea basin that likely has several unique habitats and species. The many side fjords are not as deep as the main fjord and are believed to have a similar biology to many western Norwegian fjords. But what is the dispersion between side fjords? Does the deep main fjord provide a barrier? Does the system involve a number of relatively “isolated” populations?
There is a perception that the environmental and oceanographic parameters of the Sognefjord system is generally resilient, although there is some evidence that suggests periodic water turn-over or exchange events; what might cause these, and what are the potential impacts on the fauna?
This autumn’s cruise is the first in a planned series. The project will initially focus on mapping and characterising the fauna, but it is hoped that there will be additional funding for more quantifiable work in the future with researchers undertaking genetic studies to characterise the animal populations more precisely. Glenner explains that the BIO diversity lab is updating its sequencing equipment and will be able to undertake some interesting parallel sequencing analyses.