NEEDED project proposes a novel way to study the past environment using the DNA preserved in marine sediments. After their death, the organisms living in the sea sink to the bottom where they are eaten or decomposed by the others. Fortunately, their DNA remains preserved either inside the undigested cells or as free molecules attached to the sand. Although this DNA is strongly degraded, it is still possible to recover its fragments and identify their origin. Thus, the marine sediments provide invaluable archives of almost everything that has been living there in the past.
In this project we will use this archived DNA to reconstruct the history of marine life in Nordic Seas during the last 20’000 years. We will analyze sediment DNA in the six welldated cores collected at Svalbard, Greenland and Jan Mayen shelfs. By using multiple genetic markers, we will follow changes in composition of different groups of organisms, from microalgae to single-cell protozoans and animals. We will integrate these historical biodiversity data with the information about environmental change provided by classical palaeoceanographic proxies. The results of our study will help understanding how the marine organisms respond to climate change in the past and whether this response is similar to what we observe today. In particular, we will analyze the impact of climate change on biodiversity during the mid-Holocene Thermal Maximum, about 5’000-9’000 years ago and compare it to the current global warming. We will test the hypothesis that the past increase of sea surface temperature in Nordic Seas was associated with the increase of biodiversity, lower productivity and reduced carbon burial. Our conclusions will show what can be expected in the near future if the Nordic Seas continue to warm at the current pace.
Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences
55 Powstańców Warszawy Street
Prof. dr Jan Pawłowski