In the NordChar project alterations in the ecosystem of the northern hemisphere we are being observed alongside changes in temperature and especially the effect this has onthe arctic char in this investigation.
“First and foremost we are observing the wild char, the effects of changes in weather pattern to its natural habitat, but we are also watching for changes to the natural environment and hunting and a part of this is looking to the development of arctic char farming,” says Ragnar Jóhannsson, research group leader at Matís in charge of its contribution to the NordChar project which Matís is now taking part in along with partners in Canada, Norway and Scotland and which is directed at the arctic char in the North Atlantic. Ragnar coordinates the project for Matís but others taking part are both universities and research groups.
Along with Matís the Institute of Freshwater Fisheries will be representing Iceland in the NordChar project. “This is a genetics project where we create a genetic database for the arctic char wherein we map the genetic and physical properties of the char in various areas. By gathering together genetic information into a central database we can use that information to observe their development or
even predict it,” says Ragnar. The project involves sequencing mitochondria from fish samples taken from a very large area. Samples are drawn from rivers in mainland Europe, Scandinavia, Iceland, Scotland, Greenland and Russia. “Mitochondrial DNA is passed from the mother to the offspring and thus we gain an image of the maternal family tree of the arctic char in the area of the northern hemisphere.
With that we can later connect all kinds of information, such as rate of growth, diseases and so on, to information from the DNA of the char and thus produce valuable evidence that can for instance be used in future farming of arctic char. Genetic information can be used directly to bring forth the properties in the fish that the producer desires. But the first step, and the one that NordChar is all about, is to create this ‘family tree’ and thus lay the foundation of the future. We are in fact drawing information from the past to predict the future or even affect the char’s evolution in favor of farming or capture of wild arctic char,” says Ragnar.