Kelp export: fuel for adjacent communities in changing arctic ecosystems?

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
KELPEX is the name of the Norwegian project that aims at quantifying the production and export of kelp (Laminaria hyperborea) detritus and its role in fuelling diverse ecosystems, shaping their structure and function in the arctic region of Norway. Kelp forests are emblematic ecosystems along the Norwegian coast and are among the most productive systems on the planet. Up to 90% of this primary production is exported from the system to adjacent habitats. Over the past decades, dramatic regime shifts from kelp forests to barren areas have occurred, with major implications for the production and export of kelp detritus. Thus, changing kelp coverage caused by natural and/or anthropogenic stressors may have substantial implications in the structure and function of adjacent ecosystems. New studies are challenging well-established paradigms of tight benthopelagic-coupling on arctic continental shelves, suggesting that macrophyte detritus play a significant role in fuelling benthic ecosystems, but the impacts on these benthic communities are largely unknown. KELPEX will quantify these processes in the arctic region, provide new understanding of the importance of kelp detritus to ecosystem services, and develop a predictive tool from which to assess ecosystem changes associated with kelp regime shifts. This will provide robust data and scientific knowledge to support decision making and management of arctic ecosystems in changing oceans. The master thesis student will be involved in Work Package 3 of the project which investigates the effect of kelp detritus on deep-sea benthic communities. Besides the opportunity to join a sampling campaign to Malangen Fjord onboard R/V Johan Ruud around the start of the summer 2017, the student will learn how to process deep-sea benthic samples, extract and identify meiofauna and more specific nematodes to lower taxonomic level, and analyse the data.
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Prof. Dr. Ann Vanreusel
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Reference Number: RP-47551