Líffræðifélag Íslands - biologia.is
Líffræðiráðstefnan 2023

Maërl beds in the Arctic: Distribution analysis in Icelandic waters

Höfundar / Authors: Urður Ýrr Brynjólfsdóttir (1,2), Haseeb Randhawa (1), Julian Burgos (2)

Starfsvettvangur / Affiliations: 1. Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Iceland 2. Marine and Freshwater Research Institute

Kynnir / Presenter: Urður Ýrr Brynjólfsdóttir

Little is known about the distribution or ecology of maërl beds in Iceland, habitats that host high biodiversity. Various flora and fauna rely on maërl beds, some of which are rare or economically important, and play an important role in carbon sequestration. Individual maërl grow very slowly and can become hundreds of years old. Maërl beds are vulnerable habitats that are under threat from many anthropogenic influences, such as dredging, extraction, bottom trawling, pollution, and climate change. In order to manage effectively and conserve the habitat, it is necessary to map their distribution. When the distribution is known it is possible to identify threats and effects from human activities, and create a conservation plan accordingly.
This project aims to develop species distribution models for maërl in Icelandic waters and identify important factors influencing their distribution. Species distribution modelling will be done by creating an ensemble model from machine learning algorithms such as MaxEnt, Random forests, and Boosted regression trees.
Data on maërl presence will be collected from the literature, interviews and mapping, whereas environmental data will be collected from online and local resources. Variables that will be considered include bathymetry, topography, temperature, salinity, light availability, turbidity, and concentration of nutrients.