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Hidden habitats - what lurks beneath the Greenland seas?


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Fieldwork / Study

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Disko Bay
Fieldwork location

Geolocation is 68.828441474497, -53.543050035591

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Science / project plan

The Arctic environment is changing more rapidly than the global average, in particular declining sea ice extent and thickness and increasing freshwater runoff from the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). Over the past millennia, changes in the ocean-climate dynamics reshaped the GrIS significantly, leaving complex landscapes beneath the seas around Greenland. The submerged post-glacial landforms serve as an archive of past ice sheet dynamics and simultaneously provide shelter to unique Arctic biodiversity from a destructive human impact on benthic environment. The planned hidden habitats survey will collect novel high-resolution environmental datasets, and together with existing historical data collected throughout decades of field campaigns by the project partners, will shed new light on past ocean-ice-climate interactions in West Greenland. The selected Disko Bay area perfectly fulfils assumptions of the hidden habitats hypothesis due to highly complex topography, hydrography and rich marine biodiversity including rare observations of vulnerable species. We plan a 10-day survey in SW Disko Bay (West Greenland) for 8 researchers in summer 2020. The overall survey will be divided into two key activities: 1) continuous geological survey with onboard multi-beam echo sounder and deep-towed combined side scan sonar with sub-bottom profiler and 2) biological sampling (stop and re-start) using underwater photo/video imaging system. The geological part will deliver ultra-high-resolution data on surface and sub-surface geology of the area, seafloor topography and sediment types including information on potential gas seeps or biogenic structures, whereas underwater imaging will deliver data on benthic habitats and biodiversity with special focus on cold-water corals.

Publications related to project

Alley, R.B. 2000. The Younger Dryas cold interval as viewed from central Greenland. Quaternary Science Reviews 19: 213-226.

CAFF 2017. State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity: Key Findings and Advice for Monitoring. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna International Secretariat, Akureyri, Iceland. ISBN: 978-9935-431-62-2

Dowdeswell, J.A., Hogan, K.A., Ó Cofaigh, C., Fugelli, E.M.G., Evans, J., Noormets, R. 2014. Late quaternary ice flow in a West Greenland fjord and cross-shelf trough system: submarine landforms from Rink Isbrae to Uummannaq shelf and slope. Quaternary Science Reviews 92: 292-309.

Funder, S., Kjeldsen, K.K., Kjaer, K.H., Ó Cofaigh, C. 2011. The Greenland Ice Sheet during the past 300,000 years: A review. In: Ehlers, J., Gibbard, P., Hughes, P.D., (eds.), Quaternary Glaciations - Extent and Chronology. Part IV: A Closer Look. Developments in Quaternary Science 15, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 699-713.

Hogan, K.A., Ó Cofaigh, C., Jennings, A.E., Dowdeswell, J.A., Hiemstra, J.F. 2016. Deglaciation of a major palaeo-ice stream in Disko Trough, West Greenland. Quaternary Science Reviews 147: 5-26.

Ryan, J. 2013. Submarine geomorphology of the continental shelves of southeast and southwest Greenland from olex data. Master thesis. University of Cambridge, pp 126.

Yesson, C., Simon, P., Chemshirova, I., Gorham, T., Turner, C.J., Hammeken, N., Blicher, M.E., Kemp, K.M. 2015. Community composition of epibenthic megafauna on the West Greenland Shelf. Polar Biology 38: 2085-2096.