From early 2015, a new project will be initiated within the mare Incognitum family. Not only is it a new project, it is the largest project so far of all Mre Incognitum projects with a total budget of 50 million NOK.
This innovative and challenging research project is spearheaded by the development of new autonomous underwater technology, with the primary goal of determining the ecosystem consequences of the ongoing reduction in the Arctic sea ice. The project is based on three tightly-linked core modules: The applied technology module focuses on data acquisition and autonomous observations in areas and habitats yet to be systematically and scientifically explored. Specifically, we will develop an under-ice-tethered observatory (see picture) with real-time data transmission to be deployed for a full year in the Central Arctic Ocean. The biological interactions module focuses on coupling processes between the sea-ice and the ocean, aimed at answering the fundamental question of whether species composition and production regimes in Arctic marine ecosystems will be permanently altered following a continued reduction of the Arctic ice cover. The consequences module will explore and forecast possible consequences of reduced ice cover at increasing levels of complexity, ranging from individuals to populations up to the entire ecosystem and society at large and geopolitics. The project focuses on method development, technology adaption to an extreme operating environment, consequences for the deep central Arctic Ocean ecosystem of climate change, and on building a cross-disciplinary nationally and internationally coordinated consortium bridging technology and life sciences.