Deep sea project SponGES is preparing two research cruises
Jasper de Goeij, marine biologist at the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamic (UvA-IBED) is involved in the European research project SponGES. The project aims to gain more insight into deep sea sponge grounds – areas that have so far largely remained unexplored. Two research cruises are planned to take place this summer.
Deep sea cold water sponges are 700 million years old and live at a depth between 200 and 3000 meters, consuming bacteria and plankton. De Goeij and his team suspect that sponges may play a much more important role in marine ecosystems and marine carbon cycles than previously thought. Measurements on carbon, nitrogen or silicate cycles of sponges have so far only been done on warm water sponges or in the lab. In SponGES nutrient intake and output will be measured on the sea floor.
De Goeij explains that there are many open questions in relation to deep sea sponges. Where do these sponge grounds occur, how important are they, and what is their role in ecosystem health? The project’s overall goal is to work towards an integrated ecosystem-based approach to help both conserve and be able to sustainably exploit deep-sea sponges in the North Atlantic.
At the moment, PhD candidate Martijn Bart is working in the lab on deep sea sponges at the Bedford Institute for Oceanography in Canada. The lab work is done in preparation of two upcoming research cruises. The first expedition will go to the Arctic Mid-western Ridge and the Barentz Sea with the GO Sars from the University of Bergen (20 July to 6 August). The second, with the CCGS Hudson (Bedford Institute for Oceanography), will investigate glass sponges (Vazella Pourtalesi) in the Emerald Basin near Novia Scotia (30 August to 7 September).
Four Dutch partners are part of the worldwide research consortium SponGES: UvA, UU, WUR and NIOZ, and within the programme there are 7 PhD candidates from the Netherlands alone.