With the new year, we also have a lot of new activitity in town: In January our cosy town of 30 people (the normal population during wintertime) went up to 80 again for about two weeks, as ‚MARINE NIGHT‚, a project of the University of Tromsø arrived with lots of students to study the activities in the fjord during polar night. A strange, but good experience to see the town full of people again!
Our station station also got some guest that participated in this project:
Clara Hoppe, postdoctoral researcher at the AWI in Bremerhaven arrived together with PhD student Zofia Smoła from Sopot, MSc student Ida Bernhardsson from Uppsala and PI Eva Leu from Akvaplan-Niva in Oslo in the second week of January and different to most other participants of the MARINE NIGHT project they stayed longer to continue their measurements.
This is what they have to say about their project:
„The goal of this project is to achieve a basic understanding of the distribution and activity of organisms in the Arctic polar night, and how these contribute to functioning of Arctic ecosystems. The aim of our small team was to measure the actual as well as potential photosynthetic activities of the phytoplankton (i.e. microscopic algae) present in the water column, because almost nothing is known about phytoplankton during the polar night even though we know that some species are there all year round.
In addition, we also wanted to identify which day length and light intensities are necessary to induce photosynthesis and growth for resting spores in the sediment. This is important because many algae species are forming resting stages when growth conditions become unfavorable towards the end of a bloom. As these resting stages are very robust and almost completely inactive, they can survive in a dormant state for a long while, supposedly up to several years. They are supposed to play an important role during the initiation of the annual spring bloom, when strong winds cause an overturning of the entire water column and transport them to surface waters where they encounter enough light and nutrients to start growing. In order to predict how climate change way impact on the spring bloom dynamic and primary productivity in the Arctic, we first need to understand how blooms up here are initiated.
Seeing (or rather not seeing) Svalbard completely in the dark was strange at first. But we acclimated quickly to the new conditions and soon also the sampling on the fjord with our small headlamps as the only light source became a normal, yet beautiful routine. After concentrating the phytoplankton with plankton nets, we study its species composition and find a astonishing diversity in diatom and dino(flagellate) species. Even more surprisingly, the cells are full of chlorophyll a (the primary pigment of photosynthesis) and seem to be able to induce substantial rates of photosynthesis within a few hours of exposure to light. The phytoplankton cells that we try to “wake up” from their overwintering in the sediment still seem to be quite sleepy and need more time to develop similar rates of photosynthesis. Now with a longer and longer twilight phase at noon, we hope to also observe changes in the activity of the phytoplankton directly in the fjord.
We really enjoy our stay here at the AWIPEV station in the quiet time of the year and were lucky enough to observe beautiful northern lights on many evening. But we are now also looking forward to seeing the sun again next week.“
(Clara Hoppe, AWI)
From next week onwards it will be quiet again for a little while, but very soon the scientist will start coming back to our station. In the meantime, we continue with the ongoing measurements and try to get things in order that have not been done during the busy summer season…