Fjord Ecosystem Structure and Function on the West Antarctica Peninsula – Hotspots of Productivity and Biodiversity? (FjordEco)

FjordEco is an integrated field and modeling study which aims to evaluate physical oceanographic processes, glacial inputs, plankton dynamics, and benthic community structure and function in Andvord Bay, a glaciomarine fjord along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). Our research will help to address three overarching questions of relevance to WAP fjord ecosystems:
a) Is Andvord Bay a substantial hotspot of productivity and biodiversity?
b) If so, what physical, glaciological, biological and chemical processes interact to enhance this productivity and biodiversity?
c) How sensitive are these processes to changing glacial meltwater and sediment inputs?

Several lines of evidence suggest that WAP fjords are intense hotspots of pelagic and benthic productivity and biodiversity, providing critical habitat for keystone species including krill and their predators. The high productivity/biodiversity in WAP fjords could be facilitated by existing conditions of weak meltwater and terrigenous-sediment inputs, which appear likely to change with climate warming. This contrasts Arctic fjord ecosystems which are strongly influenced by meltwater processes, high turbidity, and burial disturbance, yielding “cold spots” of productivity and biodiversity. We expect our studies to yield major new insights into the structure and dynamics of a WAP fjord ecosystem, highlighting contrasts with Arctic sub-polar fjords, and transforming our understanding of the ecological role fjords can play in the rapidly warming WAP coastal marine landscape.

The field study portion of FjordEco will take place over 3 years and 3 cruises aboard the Laurence M. Gould and the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Our team will deploy/conduct the following (and more!):

  • Sediment trap mooringsFjordMap
  • Coring operations (box core and megacore)
  • Trawling (Blake/Tucker)
  • MOCNESS tows
  • Yo-yo camera tows
  • Respiration incubations
  • Time-lapse camera
  • Glacier cameras
  • Weather stations
  • Glider AUVs
  • VMP
  • towed Acrobat
  • CTDs
  • Nutrients and iron analyses

The data collected during these cruises will provide a synoptic view of the fjord ecosystem and detailed characterizations of the physics, biology and chemistry which have not yet been available. This is a collaborative project lead by Dr. Craig Smith (University of Hawaii at Manoa) along with Co-PIs Dr. Brian Powell (University of Hawaii), Dr. Mark Merrifield (University of Hawaii at Manoa), Dr. Maria Vernet (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Dr. Peter Winsor (University of Alaska at Fairbanks), Dr. Martin Truffer (University of Alaska at Fairbanks), as well as many other students, staff and collaborating researchers.FjordEcoLogos

Additional Information:

Stay tuned for our cruise blog to go live in November, 2015! : and follow #FjordEco on Twitter for exciting updates!


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