Studies on functional marine biodiversity as a basis for understanding ecosystem structure, dynamics and resilience shall be focused on the Northern krill, the euphausiid Meganychphanes norvegica, as a pelagic model species. The pattems of diversity in this species - an important component of Atlantic communities - shall be investigated at specific locations in the north-eastem Atlantic, the Kattegat and the Mediterranean.
1 ) Characteristic abiotic conditions at three selected study sites are:
- The Atlantic off Scotland: deep and cool
- The Mediterranean in the Ligurian sea: deep and warm
- The Kattegat: shallow and therefore variable in temperature The uptake, intemal transfer, metabolism, and ways of storage of energy under these conditions shall be analysed and compared 2) The adaptive capacity of M. norvegica in terms of the rates, ranges and limits of physiological performance in relation to the differing climatic conditions shall be compared.
3) Parallel, it is planned to investigate the genetic differentiation in M. norvegica with respect to physiological function and the contrasting properties of the ecosystems.
4) Adaptive features shall be sought which would give clues towards the extent of eurythermy vs. stenothermy in the species. The differing climatic regimes at the three locations are considered as parameters of a "natural experiment". The results of the comparison can help in determining the capacity of M. norvegica to cope with long-term changes in sea-temperatures. The innovative combination of ecophysiological and genetic techniques can be applied in future comparisons with other zooplankton species.
5) In all three areas krill crosses different water strata during regular vertical migration. The influence of the different biotic and abiotic conditions, with special regard to temperature, on the physiology of the migrating specimens shall be studied, in order to try to identify cause and effects of this characteristic behaviour.
6) Numerous vertebrates depend on M. norvegica as a food source. The importance of krill in the food chains of the three ecosystems shall be defined and compared. A better knowledge of processes affecting population stability and biomass will positively influence the level of prediction of productivity and thus improve the ability to manage local fisheries.
Particularly promising for the success of the programme is the complementary experience of the partners (BAH, LOBE, SAMS) on population dynamics and ecophysiology of M norvegica, so far gained at three study sites. The new genetic approach (UP) shall be closely interlinked with these main topics. The fourfold expertise is the basis for the planned comparison of Northem krill along the climatic gradient:
- Existing data sets on population characteristics are to be re-analysed and improved using modern methods of quantitation with respect to biomass, vertical distribution/migration, and population structure.
- Adaptive processes linked to nutrition, reproduction, metabolism, behaviour, and genetic differentiation shall be studied on the basis of novel techniques and new ways of interpretation.
- Local research shall be combined with integrating sea-experiments on a specially equipped research vessel as a common platform during two summer and two winter cruises. Thus, field studies, maintenance experiments, as well as physiological, biochemical, and genetic analyses will be conducted in close accordance.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
PA37 1QA Dunbeg Oban Argyll