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Up-scaling Arctic diversity analysis to link community organisation and ecosystem functioning

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ARCDIV (Up-scaling Arctic diversity analysis to link community organisation and ecosystem functioning)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2018-05-31

"Arctic oceans are undergoing major changes in many of its fundamental physical constituents. Such changes have profound impacts on the chemical and biological processes that are at the root of Arctic marine food webs. Yet, for Arctic benthic systems such syntheses are lacking. Consequently, the main objectives were to determine interactions between sea-ice associated species in benthic communities of the Arctic oceans, using joint species distribution models; link traits to environmental characteristics, using trait-based distribution models; look for indirect interactions and feedbacks between benthic fauna and ecosystem functioning with structural equation models.
Milestones and deliverables were mostly achieved, but statistical modelling approaches have not been finalised yet due to a lack of data. To address this critical gap, I initiated a pan-Arctic information system on benthic biota (PANABIO). Currently it contains >10000 sampling locations, >2500 taxonomic units, >70000 records from the period 1800-2014. We will exploit PANABIO as an open-access webservice that allows on-the-fly exploration of geo-referenced and validated circumpolar benthic biodiversity data. What we are currently investing in, is hosting associated environmental data, species traits, pipelines to molecular-genetic and taxonomic databases, as well as data repositories.
Since polar research was a new field of research for me, I heavily invested in workshops, meetings, and international symposia to establish a new scientific network and solidify my career switch. I am now involved in the Arctic traits project (University of Vienna, Austria), I supervised two BSc-students (University of Oldenburg, Germany) on polar modelling, I supervise a MSc-student from the POMOR-research school (St. Petersburg, Russia) to model regions of common species profiles in the Laptev Sea, and I co-supervise a PhD-student in a joint Russian-German multidisciplinary project focused on the Siberian Arctic (University of Kiel, Germany). Lastly, I am part of an international writing team for the H2020 call ""LC-CLA-07-2019: The changing cryosphere"".
A paper related to objective 2 has been published in Ecological Indicators. Lastly, I won a postdoc-grant to continue this research and create a unique and independent research-profile at the crossroads between statistical modelling and polar marine research.
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I compiled benthic information from 30 sources, harmonised and validated the taxonomic nomenclature, and added them to PANABIO. Each record represents a single taxonomic unit with associated geographic coordinates, sampling region, depth, date, sampling-scope and taxonomic tree. The sampling-scope facilitates to select samples based on their gear-type, e.g. trawling with a net. This is important, since the gear-type decides which part of the benthic community is represented by the samples. These circumpolar data on Arctic benthic biodiversity are hosted in a PostgreSQL database. We wrote a front-end application to makes this database publicly available as a webservice. At present we are working on visualisation- and extraction-tools, as well as online-security associated with allowing public access. Moreover, I am modelling in R to realise the statistical modelling approaches.

Publications
Degen R, Aune M, Bluhm B, Cassidy C, Kedra M, Kraan C et al. 2018. Trait-based approaches in rapidly changing ecosystems: A roadmap to the future polar Oceans. Ecological Indicators 91:722-736.
PANABIO is the largest and first open-access database on pan-Arctic benthic biota. Such a database is needed not only to explore and forecast potential impacts of climate change on food web complexity and following consequences for marine mammals and seabirds relying on benthic fauna for food, but also to obtain a critically needed baseline of current diversity patterns in Arctic benthic systems. Such results also are paramount to inform decision makers and the general public, who are concerned about the vulnerability and resilience of Arctic environments due to emerging economic and geopolitical interests. We expect to make the warehouse accessible early 2019. More publications are foreseen, while acknowledging the current funding by the European Union.
Figure 1: Point-referenced data in the Arctic Ocean