The hadal zone is the deepest part of the global ocean and is one of the most remote, extreme, and scantly explored habitats on Earth. However, based on recent discoveries, hadal trenches seem to act as oceanic depocenters hosting intensified biological activity that is mediated by unknown life forms.
Using novel deep-sea instrumentation HADAL will unravel the biogeochemical cycling and the dynamics of life in hadal trenches. We will uncover how material is transported and deposited in the deepest part of the ocean and investigate how life decomposes organic matter and cycles elements at these extreme settings. We will explore the composition, interaction and function of microbial life in trench systems from contrasting oceanic settings to resolve whether individual trenches act as isolated biogeographic habitats dominated by unique co-evolving communities or if trenches represent interconnected extreme environments. Furthermore, HADAL will develop experimental high-pressure facilities to investigate how extreme pressure affects life processes and microbial interactions. HADAL will thus define the biogeochemical function and diversity of hadal trenches, adding these unique environments to our understanding of the global ocean.
HADAL is hosted by the University of Southern Denmark, and the multidisciplinary endeavor will combine leading expertise within biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, molecular biology, oceanography and engineering to answer fundamental research questions of the hadal realm.