ArcticNet - ArcticNet Research

Phase 4 (2015-2018)

Hidden Biodiversity and Vulnerability of Hard-Bottom and Surrounding Environments in the Canadian Arctic

Project Leader(s)

Archambault, Philippe
Edinger, Evan

Polar ecosystems are experiencing major stresses. Potential impacts of these stressors on benthic ecosystems in the Arctic are still difficult to assess because of the lack of baseline data and incomplete sampling. Hard-bottom and surrounding environments represent the most seriously under-sampled habitats. Hard substrate habitats host a distinct fauna of invertebrates and fishes, some of which are highly vulnerable to damage from bottom-contact fishing gear. This project will investigate biodiversity from microbes to fishes, in the steep-and-deep marine habitats of the Canadian Arctic. The specific objectives are to: i) describe the biodiversity and functional role of hard-bottom seafloors including coral and sponge areas, and other fauna living in the surrounding areas; ii) describe cryptic and microbial diversity associated with biogenic habitat-forming species; iii) describe microbial communities, to link them with biogeochemical processes and symbiotic relationships; iv) identify environmental drivers of associated fish species, and; v) explore whether Arctic cod adopt a demersal distribution in summer. These objectives will be achieved with a Remotely Operating Vehicle based sampling. Overall, this project will bring new knowledge about the biology of Arctic hard-bottom seafloors, and will help project partners monitor and conserve Arctic biodiversity in the face of the challenges of environmental change. Contributes to IRIS: 1, 2