Sea-ice distribution in the modern Arctic Ocean: Biomarker records from trans-Arctic Ocean surface sediments

Xiaotong.Xiao [ at ]


Records of the spatial and temporal variability of Arctic Ocean sea ice are of significance for understanding the causes of the dramatic decrease in Arctic sea-ice cover of recent years. In this context, the newly developed sea-ice proxy IP25, a mono-unsaturated highly branched isoprenoid alkene with 25 carbon atoms biosynthesized specifically by sea-ice associated diatoms and only found in Arctic and sub-Arctic marine sediments, has been used to reconstruct the recent spatial sea-ice distribution. The phytoplankton biomarkers 24S-brassicasterol and dinosterol were determined alongside IP25 to distinguish ice-free or permanent ice conditions, and to estimate the sea-ice conditions semi-quantitatively by means of the phytoplankton-IP25 index (PIP25). Within our study, for the first time a comprehensive data set of these biomarkers was produced using fresh and deep-frozen surface sediment samples from the Central Arctic Ocean proper (>80°N latitude) characterized by a permanent ice cover today and recently obtained surface sediment samples from the Chukchi Plateau/Basin partly covered by perennial sea ice. In addition, published and new data from other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions were added to generate overview distribution maps of IP25 and phytoplankton biomarkers across major parts of the modern Arctic Ocean. These comprehensive biomarker data indicate perennial sea-ice cover in the Central Arctic, ice-free conditions in the Barents Sea and variable sea-ice situations in other marginal seas. The low but more than zero values of biomarkers in the Central Arctic supported the low in-situ productivity there. The PIP25 index values reflect modern sea-ice conditions better than IP25 alone and show a positive correlation with spring/summer sea ice. When calculating and interpreting PIP25 index as a (semi-quantitative) proxy for reconstructions of present and past Arctic sea-ice conditions from different Arctic/sub-Arctic areas, information of the source of phytoplankton biomarkers and the possible presence of allochthonous biomarkers is needed, and the records of the individual biomarkers always should be considered as well.

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DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2015.01.029

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Xiao, X. , Fahl, K. , Müller, J. and Stein, R. (2015): Sea-ice distribution in the modern Arctic Ocean: Biomarker records from trans-Arctic Ocean surface sediments , Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 155 , pp. 16-29 . doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2015.01.029

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