Recently the scientists of Klaipeda University Marine Research Institute (KU MRI) returned from the expedition to the land of permafrost — the Arctic. In cooperation with the scientists of Polish Institute of Oceanography, they investigated how melting glaciers change the environment of the Arctic and benthic (sea-bed) habitats.
Scientists of Klaipėda University Marine Research Institute Dr. Sergej Olenin, Dr. Andrius Šiaulys, Dr. Martynas Bučas, Dr. Tomas Ruginis, Dr. Diana Vačiūtė, PhD student from Italy Tobia Politi and KU Master’s student Edvinas Tiškus participated in different parts of the expedition. Different challenges were faced during each of them, because the methods of research material collection as well as means of transport varied.
The first part of the expedition
“The expedition was divided into three parts. During the first part we went to Spitzbergen, where the Polish scientific sailing ship “Oceania“ had already arrived at by the Arctic Ocean. Then we divided into two teams — four people went on board the yacht “Magnus Zaremba“, while others sailed on board the bigger ship “Oceania“. PhD student of Marine Research Institute Tobia Politi also sailed on board this ship. We sailed together for three days. Those, who were sailing on board the yacht, explored shallower places, and those on board of the ship explored the deeper ones. After that, a part of the team from the big ship was transferred to the yacht, which continued the work in Istfjord, the rest were taken to the airport, and the ship continued sailing towards Hornsund, on the way disembarking the land expedition with Dr. Tomas Ruginis. He walked along the wild Arctic coast for more than a week, as we joked “to feed bears”, — told the scientist of Marine Research Institute Dr. Andrius Šiaulys, who was sailing in Svaldbard waters on board the yacht.
According to the scientist Dr. A Šiaulys, the scientists had a lot of objectives while exploring the Arctic. They managed to implement most of them, and some of them — on the last day of the expedition. “Together with a warming climate the species of warmer waters, so called boreal species, enter the Arctic districts. Such species live, for example, in Lithuania. Also garbage which can be covered by marine organisms (biological coating) is constantly brought in the area. Earlier, when it was colder, the species brought in with garbage just did not survive, that is why the Arctic was naturally protected from them. However, the climate is becoming warmer and these species will be able to inhabit the Arctic. They will influence the local ecosystem. This is how a chain effect occurs — the climate is getting warmer; therefore, glaciers are melting. With melting glaciers, the split-off icebergs scrape seabed, this way they destroy local habitats, and the water of a melting glacier carries a lot of inorganic substances into bays, and so increases its turbidity. This contributes to the loss of local habitats, and at the same time non-native species start arriving which can already settle in the new environment.
8 Oct 2019