Research objectives and content
In recent years the paramount role of benthic suspension feeders in energy transfer processes in littoral ecosystems has become evident. A previous study pointed out the importance of several cnidarian species in the transfer of energy from the planktonic to the benthic system. In addition, there is some evidence that besides the zooplankton the finer fraction of suspended organic matter (bacteria, organic particles, phytoplankton) may represent a more important contribution to diets than previously assumed. The project will focus on adaptations of polar benthic cnidaria to the seasonal cycle of food availability. The availability of food resources, including potential alternatives like resuspended benthic material, which was not yet taken into account, will be investigated. Particular interest lie in the question, whether polar benthic cnidaria adapted to another type of diet than that reported for these organisms in temperate regions, thus enabling them to exploit such alternative food resources available in polar waters.
Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact) The applicant already accumulated data from earlier work in the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic and the Antarctic, to which the expected Arctic data would provide an important complement. The biochemical, especially enzymatic, as well as electron microscope methods included in this project are new to the applicant and will be useful for application to preserved material from the other areas of interest (in fact, training on the electron microscope is already begun). Moreover, the applicant's interest lie in a field of ecology, which need complex and well organized studies. The necessary know-how to perform this type of study can be acquired working under the guidance of scientists of the AWI.
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