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Ukraine and Poland have commenced joint research of the Antarctic seabed

01 Apr, 2024
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Ukraine and Poland have commenced joint research of the Antarctic seabed

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On the research icebreaker Noosphere, a new international study of life on the seabed of Antarctica has been launched, initiating a new direction of scientific cooperation between Ukraine and Poland.

The National Antarctic Scientific Center announced this on Facebook.

As part of the collaboration between Polish and Ukrainian scientists, samples of marine fauna were collected from the floor of the Southern Ocean for the first time.

A special bottom trawl was used for the research. The study took place in the Penola Trough (near the Vernadsky Research Base station) at three different depths.

 

 

Various marine organisms were found at each depth. Sponges, large sea stars, and holothurians (also known as sea cucumbers due to their similar shape) predominated at a depth of 250 meters.

 

 

At a depth of 200 meters, medium-sized species of sea stars, snails, large polychaete worms, and ophiuroids (also known as "brittle stars" due to their distinctive method of movement: when they crawl along the seabed, their arms coil like snakes) were most commonly encountered.

At a depth of 120 meters, various species of echinoderms and colonies of sessile species of bryozoans were collected.

 

 

The samples are stored on the vessel in special freezer chambers. After delivery to the laboratory on the "mainland," scientists will perform the extraction and sequencing (reading) of the genetic code of the selected organisms and study the amount of metal present in their mineral skeletons.

One of the most advanced methods for studying marine ecosystems is the analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA). Using this method, dozens or even hundreds of species of living organisms can be identified in a single water sample through specific molecular markers. This allows for time and cost savings, as well as significantly less environmental damage compared to traditional research methods, which often involve the mandatory capture of living creatures.

Scientists have noted that climate change leads to an increase in seawater temperature and its acidification (a decrease in pH). In more acidic and warmer water, the physiology of animals changes, particularly leading them to absorb metals from the water much more intensively and deposit them in skeletal elements such as bones, shells, carapaces, and so on.

 

 

The metal-contaminated skeleton becomes weaker. Additionally, water oxidation negatively affects the shells of animals formed from calcium carbonate, as it dissolves in acidic environments. Along with the accumulation of metals, this makes the skeletal support of marine life fragile and vulnerable.

Therefore, through these studies, scientists will be able to assess the sensitivity/resilience of aquatic invertebrates to changes in the chemical composition of the Southern Ocean and identify groups that are primarily threatened by the consequences of climate change in Antarctica.

From the Polish side, the research involves employees of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Gdańsk. The current joint sampling of bottom marine fauna marks the beginning of a new direction in scientific cooperation between Ukraine and Poland. Its development into a long-term joint project funded by the National Science Center of the Republic of Poland is expected.

 

The Odessa Journal

The Odessa Journal

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