“Polarstern” and AWI travel to the “Hausgarten” | Polarjournal
Using state-of-the-art equipment such as the autonomous NOMAD deep-sea robot, researchers in the “Hausgarten” are investigating changes in the Arctic Ocean. It is precisely the effects over a longer period of time that are to be investigated. Archive image: Esther Horvath, AWI

Today, Whit Monday, the Polarstern set sail for the Arctic. In Fram Strait, between Greenland and Svalbard, more than 50 participating scientists will resume the long-term observations that began at the AWI HAUSGARTEN more than 20 years ago. Here they will investigate the effects of environmental changes on the Arctic’s deep-sea ecosystem.

The Arctic is changing: rising water temperatures and retreating sea ice are producing ecosystem shifts in open water and the ocean depths alike. “Our aim is to identify and quantify the changes in the ecosystem, and to investigate feedback effects on oceanographic processes,” explains Dr Thomas Soltwedel, a deep-sea biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and chief scientist of the expedition. “Our investigations include identifying spatial and temporal changes in the functions of selected plankton and benthic communities,” adds Soltwedel, who heads the Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology section at the AWI. In the future, the observation data will become part of a comprehensive repository that is now being created.

The long-term observation area, affectionately called the AWI “Hausgarten” (Home garden), is located in the Fram Strait, between Svalbard and East Greenland. Several ocean currents flow through here, both at depth and at the surface. The Fram Strait, together with the Bering Strait, is the only connection between the Arctic Ocean and the rest of the world’s oceans, bringing all the changes to the High Arctic. For more than 20 years, the AWI has been conducting research here at 21 sites (grey dots). Map: AWI / Google Earth

In addition, the expedition will be used to set up further installations as part of the FRAM (FRontiers in Arctic marine Monitoring) Ocean Observing System FRAM will make continuous investigations from the ocean’s surface to the deep sea possible and provide timely data on Earth system dynamics, and on changes in the climate and ecosystems. “The data from the observing system will contribute to a better understanding of changes in ocean circulation, the characteristics of the water masses, and sea-ice retreat, as well as their impact on the Arctic’s marine ecosystem,” says Soltwedel.

The FRAM project not only uses buoys and measuring stations, but also autonomously operating robots. While some travel in the water column, others like the TRAMP travel on the seafloor and collect various data there. In most cases, the devices remain in the depths for a year or more before they are brought back to the light of day. Picture: Esther Horvath, AWI

To this end, the team will employ not only an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), but also various autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that operate in the water column as well as on the ocean floor (benthic crawler). Moreover, the researchers will investigate the inputs of plastic waste into the ocean. Moreover, the researchers will investigate the inputs of plastic waste into the ocean.

Press release AWI

Link to the FRAM website: here

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