What is FRAM? Frontiers in arctic marine monitoring

FRAM (FRontiers in Arctic Marine Monitoring) targets a modern vision of integrated underwater infrastructure. FRAM enhances sustainable knowledge for science, society and maritime economy as it enables truly year round observations from surface to depth in the remote and harsh arctic sea. Cutting edge technologies are being (further) developed and used to record essential ocean variables to improve our understanding of the Arctic and it’s ongoing processes. Data will be made freely available to the public via the AWI data portal.

Ice-algae and free fl oating phytoplankton produce enormous amounts of biomass. Reduced sea ice cover and sea ice thickness could change light and nutrient availability, with unknown eff ects on production patterns, which in consequence alters degradation and sinking characteristics of organic carbon, a major energy sources of microbes. Cutting edge sensor platforms are combined with traditional techniques to study the interplay between physical processes and biomass production, and to link these with the Arctic carbon cycle at the best possible temporal and spatial resolution –covering processes under the ice and in the upper water column as well as those taking place in the deep, dark regions of the Arctic Ocean.

Deep in the Arctic Ocean, total darkness prevents any algal production. Here, sinking particles are the main energy source for all microbial life and degradation processes dominate the water column biogeochemistry. FRAM provides multidisciplinary techniques to study particle biogeochemistry, zooplankton ecology, marine mammals and the physical and environmental characteristics of the Arctic deep sea: moored Biooptical Platforms are complemented by ship based particle cameras and traditional sediment traps.

Marine microbes account for more than 90% of the ocean’s biomass. Therefore, they are among the major players in the world’s carbon and nutrient cycling. Currently, their Arctic habitat is significantly modified by ongoing sea-ice melt. It is yet unknown what the consequences of these changes will be. As part of the FRAM infrastructure, AWI researchers are building up an Arctic molecular microbial observatory to monitor and understand how ongoing environmental changes affect Arctic marine microbial communities and how these changes will alter their role in global element cycling.

The seafl oor plays a major role in degradation, turnover, and storage of organic matter, and thus is important for understanding the ocean carbon cycle. Sinking particles transfer carbon and nutrients from the sea surface to the deep ocean, a process also known as the biological pump. All inhabitants of the deep seabed depend entirely on this supply of material from the sea surface. To date, we do not know how global change and increasing anthropogenic activities in the Arctic affect processes on the seafl oor. Due to this strong link between surface and seafl oor, information on benthic life and processes at and in the seafl oor is requisite for understanding the Arctic marine ecosystem. This includes assessment of composition, diversity, and activity of benthic communities as well as the quantifi cation of benthic biogeochemical processes and ecosystem functions.

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