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Impact of climate change on the life of the Arctic Ocean floor

Life on the ocean floor is astonishingly diverse, but still very poorly known, especially in Polar Regions where ice cover has restricted sampling. Climate warming is driving a rapid transformation of polar ecosystems, and we urgently need to study the vulnerability of seafloor biodiversity to changes that are already underway.

For instance, as wide areas of the Arctic are shifting from arctic to subarctic conditions, water temperatures are rising and ice cover is diminishing. Both of these factors will alter productivity patterns in the surface ocean and thus alter the delivery of organic matter to the seafloor. Major changes in food input will propagate throughout this eco-system, affecting biodiversity and ecosystem processes.

In this context of potential wide-spread changes to deep-water living organisms communities (benthic) in the Arctic, we propose to establish benchmarks at biodiversity ‘hotspots’ - areas with a high number of species and abundance - and ‘coldspots’ where opposite conditions prevail. We anticipate that impacts of climate warming on the seafloor life will be amplified at these sentinel sites that represent extremes of productivity and biodiversity.

Knowledge resulting from our research efforts will enable us to better understand how the arctic seafloor life will be affected by climate-driven changes in oceanographic conditions and resource exploitation. We have a unique opportunity to document almost pristine conditions before the Arctic Ocean undergoes major changes.

Study site locations

Canadian Beaufort Sea, Amundsen Gulf, Viscount Melville Sound, Barrow Strait, Lancaster Sound, North Water Polynya, Gibbs Fjord.

Local collaborations

Our interaction with northern communities is limited because we are working will small animal that live on or in the sediment at depth greater than 50 m. So our interaction with the northern communities remains on activities on board the CCGS Amundsen and community visits. The benthic lab participates every time in the Schools on Board pro-gram.

Project contact information:

Philippe Archambault
Institut des sciences de la mer
Université du Québec à Rimouski
310, allée des Ursulines, CP 3300 Rimouski, QC