Physical oceanographers, chemists, and biologists will soon begin studying the seas around northern Alaska as part of an international effort to learn how increased fishing, oil and gas drilling, and land-based farming will affect marine life. The $2.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF)- funded study, called ISHTAR (Inner Shelf Transfer and Recycling in the Bering and Chukchi Seas), will involve scientists from the United States, Belgium, and Denmark.

According to NSF, previous studies suggest that, despite a short growing season, the seas around the Bering Strait produce more plant life than most marine areas of the world. However, the source of mineral nutrients for this plant life and its destination in the food web or organic sediment is not well understood. The researchers will trace nutrients from the Yukon River and the deeper waters of the Bering Sea to the continental shelves of the Bering and Chukchi seas in an attempt to better understand what happens to land and marine organic matter when it enters this continental shelf ecosystem.