On 8 January 2021, a team of 21 scientists aboard the German research vessel RV Sonne set out on the IceDivA expedition (SO280) in the Atlantic to study the diversity of marine organisms in the deep sea. They will collect samples from the Iceland Basin to the Azores at depths between 4,000 and 5,000 meters and carry out hydroacoustic mapping of the ocean floor.
The primary focus of the IceDivA expedition is to study the distribution of deep-sea species, contributing to improving our understanding of life in the deepest parts of the ocean, and the role it plays in the wider ocean biome: How do millimetre-sized organisms travel in absolute darkness and cold? What are the pathways connecting the deep-sea basins and plains? The IceDivA team on board the RV Sonne will provide information to help answer some of the fundamental questions about Atlantic ecosystem connectivity.
The IceDivA mission builds on the success of last summer’s IceAge3 expedition – the end point of the IceAGE3 defines the starting point of this new expedition, which over the course of 4 weeks will take the team on a transect from station WA-1 on the map below southwards across the abyss, before heading back to Germany.
The integration of data from previous missions forms a central component of the IceDivA work, with comparable and consistent use of equipment and standardised sampling techniques making it possible to evaluate paradigms regarding biodiversity, species inventory, and species composition in relation to depth and width.
The IceDivA expedition connects two deep-sea projects in this regard: IceAGE (Icelandic marine Animals: Genetics and Ecology) and DIVA (Latitudinal Gradients in BioDIVersity in the deep Atlantic) as well as iAtlantic. IceAGE is an established international project that was initiated in 2011 and builds on the preceding project BIOICE (Benthic Invertebrates of Icelandic Waters). By connecting to the southernmost IceAGE3 station, IceDivA adds a latitudinal gradient, which in turn forms a link to the BIODIAZ project (Controls in benthic and pelagic BIODIversity of the AZores). The study area is located in one of iAtlantic’s regions of interest (the Porcupine deep-sea plain and the Azores plateau). A contiguous and comprehensive mapping of the ocean floor by means of hydroacoustics is an indispensable prerequisite for identifying habitats – one of the iAtlantic project’s primary tasks, and an equally important objective in the IceDivA project.