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Klaipėda University research team study the impact of climate change on the arctic ecosystem

A team of researchers from the Marine Research Institute of Klaipėda University (MRI KU) are working in the Arctic again. Six researchers from Klaipėda, together with their colleagues from the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, went to the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen for a week to continue their observations under the international project ADAMANT Changes in Arctic Benthic Ecosystems: the Impact of Glacial Melt and Boreal Species Transportation by Macroplastics.

The expedition was not planned in advance: it was significantly adjusted by the global coronavirus crisis and the resulting restrictions on movement. A joint Lithuanian-Polish research team, who was supposed to work in the Arctic in the spring of 2020, can only implement its plans now that the access to the study region in northern Norway is already allowed.

The MRI KU team, which went to the Arctic, is diverse _ academician, chief researcher of the MRI dr. Sergej Olenin, dr. Aleksej Shashkov, PhD student Tobias Politi, two graduates from the Hydrology and Oceanography study programme Jonas Gintauskas and Mantas Liutkus, and Dmitry Lukashanets, a researcher from Belarus; he is an Antarctic researcher who recently joined the MRI team.

The aim of the expedition is to learn more about how the Svalbard biota is changing in the Arctic under climate change (biota is the totality of living organisms in a geographical region at a given period of time). The researchers will focus on the optical properties of water and plankton as well as bottom communities and microfauna in lakes and fjords formed during glacial melt. The expedition has been planned for 7 days, during which its participants will live and travel on the Magnus Zaremba yacht adapted for Arctic exploration.

Mantas Liutkus, who currently works in the Arctic and keeps in touch with the colleagues in Klaipėda, reports that, at the beginning of the trip, the expedition participants faced unforeseen trials: due to a strike at Copenhagen airport, their luggage was lost and travelled to Berlin airport instead of Svalbord; however, the problems were resolved, and the researchers were able to start work. “Almost all the luggage has already arrived. Zooplankton, nutrients, and phytoplankton samples are taken from the lake for examination, physical parameters are measured, macrophytes are collected, and molluscs and crustaceans are searched for,” writes Mantas Liutkus.

“Researchers of the Marine Research Institute of Klaipėda University are already well acquainted with the Arctic as the object of research, which always reveals new aspects of global climate change. We shall look forward to the information and insights to be brought by our team from the North. We are happy and proud about KU researchers contributing to the resolution of global problems through their research,” says prof. dr. Artūras Razbadauskas, KU Rector.

Incidentally, in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities, the field of Oceanography developed by KU is among the top 200 higher education institutions in the world.