Life on the Arctic seafloor

Benthic communities – i.e. the microbes, plants and animals inhabiting the seafloor – are involved in important ecosystem functions. These range from local habitat structuring to biogeochemical processes that affect the entire marine, and accordingly also the global carbon budget. Via the analysis of the functional spectrum of the benthic communities we aim to gain more insight into the benthic ecosystem functioning. Or to say it very simply: We want to look at “what they do” rather than at on “who they are”. Trait analysis is a promising method in that direction.  

But what is a trait? A trait is a well-defined property of an organism, either measurable like the body size, or based on observations, like the traits mobility or feeding type. And what we call a functional trait is one that strongly influences organismal performance (McGill et al. 2006). A broader definition is given in Reiss et al. (2009): A component of an organism‘s phenotype that determines its effect on processes and its response to environmental factors. So by studying the functional traits in benthic assemblages, we want to learn how benthic communities affect ecosystem processes, but also how they react to changes in their environment.

Arctic Climate Change

Talking about environmental changes – the Arctic environment is changing faster than any other in the world. Annual surface temperatures have increased almost twice the rate than the global average, and both sea ice thickness and extent have decreased drastically. These changes feed back on the climate system, both regionally and globally, and affect the entire marine ecosystem, from the ice-associated communities at the surface down to the animals inhabiting the seafloor in the deep Arctic basins (IPCC report, Pachauri et al. 2014).

More information on how we are using trait analysis to study benthic ecosystems in the Arctic Ocean can be found here: The Project


NEWS

May 4, 2018: Interview on University media portal uni:view (in German)
This semesters' topic is "How can we save our climate?". The whole interview about climate change in the Arctic and  the Arctic traits project can be accessed here (in German). 


NEWS

April 30, 2018: Review paper published online!
Our review article "Trait-based approaches in rapidly changing ecosystems: A roadmap to the future polar oceans" is now accessible online at Ecological indiactors. This paper is the outcome of the "Arctic Traits Workshop" that took place December 2016 in Vienna. We reviewed 233 publications from the marine realm that focused on traits and highlight a six-step roadmap that we think will aid in the application of trait-based approaches in polar regions.

NEWS

January 22-26, 2018: Lauren Sutton at AMSS (Anchorage, Alaska)
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bLUpgyzrXL8qmBAUWgNxBy19Z2dGTZgQ/view?usp=sharing
Last week Lauren presented her poster on the functional diversity of epifauna from the Chukchi and the Beaufort Sea at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium (AMSS). For a talk at the Coastal Marine Institute (on the same topic) she got an award for the best student presentation - congratulations!
 

NEWS

21.-25.01.2018: IASC workshop on Arctic glaciers and proglacial marine ecosystems (Obergurgl, Tirol)
A lot of new insights and contacts thanks to a very interesting and interdisciplinary workshop organized by Thorben Dunse (University of Oslo).

NEWS

January 3, 2018
An article about the Arctic traits project appeared in "Der Standard", one of Austrias leading daily newspapers. The online version of the article - written by Susanne Strnadl - can be accessed here

NEWS


https://sites.google.com/site/arctictraits/home/IMG_1413.jpg
20.08.-23.08.2017 3rd International Workshop on Trait-based Approaches to Ocean life
A fantastic workshop organized by Øvind Fiksen (University of Bergen) and colleagues, covering all aspects of trait-based research in the marine realm. I met fantastic researchers and collected tons of new ideas. In the end Glaucia Moreira Fragoso (NTNU), Østein Varpe (UNIS) and me had the opportunity to bring up some thoughts regarding the trait-based approach in the Arctic region (thanks to Tammy Noble-James from JNCC for the picture!). 

NEWS

07.08.2017-19.08.2017 UNIS Polar Benthic Ecology Course on board RV Helmer Hanssen
Happy to have had the chance to join this great course led by Paul Renaud (UNIS and Akvaplan Niva) and to be able to work together with a motivated group of Norwegian and international students on the trait analysis of benthic organisms in the beautiful fjords of Svalbard. Pictures (c) Bodil Bluhm, UiT (left) and Eric Molina (right).

NEWS

24.05.2017 Master Thesis available @University of Vienna
Topic: Functional patterns of shallow macrozoobenthic communities in a high Arctic fjord (79° N)
The aim of this study is to explore the biological trait patterns of macrozoobenthic communities in the Kongsfjorden, Spitsbergen. The master student will analyze data from samples taken in 15 m water depth in summer 2008 and winter 2009, in vicinity and in higher distance to the Kongsbreen glacier (Kędra et al. 2011). Via literature research and the inspection of voucher specimens the student will build a trait database and conduct a biological trait approach (BTA). This master thesis is based on the cooperation with Dr.Monika Kędra from the Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences (IOPAN) in Sopot, Poland, and involves a research visit at IOPAN at the Baltic Sea (funding available). The main part will be conducted at the Department of Limnology & Bio-Oceanography in Vienna under the supervision of Prof. Monika Bright and Dr. Renate Degen.
Requirements: Curriculum Ecology and Ecosystems (066 833) or Zoology (066 831). Successful completion of VO ‘Meereskunde’ and PP ‘Einführung in die Fauna und Flora mariner Lebensräume‘. Additional zoological training and basics in (multivariate) statistics and R will be beneficial.
Study area

NEWS

04.-07.03.2017: ASSW2017, Prague
The Arctic Traits Project was presented with a poster at this years Arctic Science Summit Week in Prague, Czech Republic, in the frame  of the excellent session on "Climate warming effects on organism size and growth rate in Arctic systems", organized by Maria Włodarska-Kowalczuk from IOPAN. 





NEWS

25.-27.01.2017: Arctic Frontiers conference, Tromsø
Again a perfectly organized Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø! So many fascinating people, topics, talks and discussions. It was great to see that not only our, but several talks – e.g. in the fish and in the zooplankton session – focused on species traits! 

NEWS

December 1-2, 2016: Arctic Traits Workshop Vienna
Thanks to all participants of the first Arctic Traits Workshop in Vienna for the great discussions and input! Special thanks to our keynote speakers Julie Bremner (Cefas, UK) and Jackie Grebmeier (University of Maryland, US)! Looking forward to our joint work on the workshop perspectives paper!

NEWS

Bodil Bluhm (left) and Renate Degen (right) at the "Arctic Frontiers Seminar Abroad" in Bremen, November 16, 2016.
November 16, 2016:
 Bodil and I joined the "Arctic Frontiers Abroad" Seminar in Bremen, one of many seminars related to the huge Arctic Frontiers 2017 Conference in Tromsø, held from January 22 – 27. The seminars overarching topic was Arctic biodiversity, and we heard a many inspiring talks and had great discussions! Thanks to AWI, the Norwegian embassy and the organizers Kathrin Bluhm (Arctic Frontiers) and Dieter Piepenburg (AWI) who made this possible!

NEWS

Check out Bodils Blog about this summers expedition on the R/V Martin Bergmann to the Kitikmeot Region, Nunavut. The picture shows Bodil and Eddy Carmack (Fisheries and Ocean Canada) looking at benthic animals from the Bathurst inlet.

NEWS

Hidden Ocean - The Chukchi Borderlands 2016 (Foto courtesy Irina Zhulay)This summer Irina (here on the right, with Lauren Sutton, University of Alaska) spent six weeks on board the Icebreaker Healy to study benthic communities and their biological traits in the Chukchi Sea borderland (Hidden Ocean 2016 Expedition). Check out her fascinating discoveries (like this beautiful sea anemone) in her blog at http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/16arctic/logs/july30/july30.html


ANNOUNCEMENT

December 1-2, 2016 The Arctic Traits Workshop will take place at the University of Vienna. 



NEWS


Mai 5, 2016: I am very happy that I am now a member of the executive committee of ART! The Arctic in Rapid Transition is an international and interdisciplinary network to study the spatial and temporal changes of the Arctic Ocean. Check out our homepage.




NEWS

March 24, 2016: An article (in German language) about our project was published on the homepage of the University of Vienna: http://medienportal.univie.ac.at/uniview/forschung/detailansicht/artikel/buntes-leben-in-arktischen-tiefen/


NEWS

March 8, 2016: The official celebration of the 2016 FWF Hertha Firnberg Grants (State secretary Harald Mahrer, Renate Degen, FWF president Christine Mannhalter)


References

McGill BJ, Enquist BJ, Weiher E, Westoby M (2006) Rebuilding community ecology from functional traits. Trends Ecol Evol 21:178–185
Reiss J, Bridle JR, Montoya JM, Woodward G (2009) Emerging horizons in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning research. Trends Ecol Evol 24:505–514
Pachauri RK, Allen MR, Barros VR, Broome J, Cramer W, Christ R (2014) Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report
Banner picture: M. Hoppmann (AWI)