The international project IceAGE (Icelandic marine Animals: Genetics and Ecology) was initiated in 2008, with the mission to explore the diversity of animals that live on the deep continental slope and in abyssal waters around Iceland. In total, an international team of over 80 renowned experts for various animal groups has been involved in the processing of the extensive material. So far, the results of the IceAGE project have been published in three special volumes (Polish Polar Research 35: 2: 2014, Zookeys 1775: 2018, Marine Biodiversity 2018), plus many additional publications. IceAGE encompasses basic questions about deep-sea biodiversity and the correlation between genetic, morphological, and environmental patterns. Furthermore, larger issues are central to the project: The deep waters around Iceland include boreal, subarctic, and Arctic zones that hold discrete bodies of water. This allows for comparative studies of deep-sea ecosystems. How much variation exists between basins in the deep sea? Is there gene flow between deep-sea basins? Do we see the same patterns in the deep sea and the continental shelf?
These questions form the foundation of the upcoming expedition IceAGE3 with RV Sonne, June 22nd to July 26th 2020. This cruise is planned to
expand our knowledge of Icelandic and adjacent waters in three steps. First, we will start out sampling in the deep sea of the Norwegian Basin at 4000m water depth. Proceeding up a depth transect
towards the Icelandic shelf up to 800 m water depth, we will explore the habitats from the abyssal plain to the expected coral gardens along the thermocline in approximately 900 m. Exploratory
dives with ROV Kiel 6000 will be planned based on a careful mapping (bathymetry) of the target areas.
In a second step, we will cross the Iceland-Faroe Ridge to fill gaps in the mapping of a large coral reef known as “Lóngsjúp”, South of Iceland, and to revisit a station sampled during previous expeditions (BIOICE and M85/3 IceAGE1 in 2011). We will continue our expedition along the Reykjanes Ridge and revisit another target area from a previous expedition (MSM75 IceAGE_RR in 2018) to find the hydrothermal vent site expected there from our data. Finally we will begin the third and final part of the expedition and expand the depth transect South of Iceland from Area2 on into the Iceland Basin down to >4500m depth.
In total, we plan 15 exploratory ROV dives (minimum of 3 designated to find the vent in Area2, 6 during the Northern transect/coral mapping, and another 6 for the Southern transect. During each dive, we will deploy a set of gears to sample the marine benthos and the upper water column using a combination of the epibenthic sledge, mulitcorer, different grab types and a plankton net.