Polar ecosystems are arguably among the least know systems on the planet, one of the reasons being that the vast majority of our knowledge is based upon data exclusively gathered during the polar day. This is in accordance with the widely held opinion that Arctic marine organisms and ecosystems generally enter a state of dormancy during the long and dark polar night. However, recent discoveries under the extreme conditions of the Arctic winter (light, temperature and ice conditions) reflect the historically low levels of scientific investigations during polar night, and challenge our understanding of Arctic marine organisms and ecosystems. In addition, the current reduction of Arctic sea ice is likely to have both direct and indirect impacts on marine organisms, their interactions and ultimately ecosystem processes. But without a fundamental and seasonal perception of Arctic ecosystem function, such impacts will remain largely impossible to understand and predict
The primary objective of Marine Night is to achieve a basic understanding of Arctic biodiversity and food web structure during the polar night, and how ecological processes from reproduction and growth to trophic interactions and life-history processes during this nearly unstudied time contribute to functioning of Arctic ecosystems. We will reach this primary objective by addressing three main research questions (research Units 1-3) and a fourth Unit dedicated towards data management, communication and outreach:
Unit 2: In the absence of light and primary production, are the biodiversity patterns and community structure of benthos during the polar night different from those observed during the polar day?
Unit 3: Climate change case studies – what are the consequences of a changing climate?
Unit 4: Outreach, communication and data management.