Sea-ice associated carbon flux in Arctic spring

julia.ehrlich [ at ]


The Svalbard region faces drastic environmental changes, including sea-ice loss and “Atlantification” of Arctic waters, caused primarily by climate warming. These changes result in shifts in the sea-ice-associated (sympagic) community structure, with consequences for the sympagic food web and carbon cycling. To evaluate the role of sympagic biota as a source, sink, and transmitter of carbon, we sampled pack ice and under-ice water (0–2 m) north of Svalbard in spring 2015 by sea-ice coring and under-ice trawling. We estimated biomass and primary production of ice algae and under-ice phytoplankton as well as biomass, carbon demand, and secondary production of sea-ice meiofauna (>10 µm) and under-ice fauna (>300 µm). Sea-ice meiofauna biomass (0.1–2.8 mg C m–2) was dominated by harpacticoid copepods (92%), nauplii (4%), and Ciliophora (3%). Under-ice fauna biomass (3.2–62.7 mg C m–2) was dominated by Calanus copepods (54%). Appendicularia contributed 23% through their high abundance at one station. Herbivorous sympagic fauna dominated the carbon demand across the study area, estimated at 2 mg C m–2 day–1 for ice algae and 4 mg C m–2 day–1 for phytoplankton. This demand was covered by the mean primary production of ice algae (11 mg C m–2 day–1) and phytoplankton (30 mg C m–2 day–1). Hence, potentially 35 mg C m–2 day–1 of algal material could sink from the sympagic realm to deeper layers. The demand of carnivorous under-ice fauna (0.3 mg C m–2 day–1) was barely covered by sympagic secondary production (0.3 mg C m–2 day–1). Our study emphasizes the importance of under-ice fauna for the carbon flux from sea ice to pelagic and benthic habitats and provides a baseline for future comparisons in the context of climate change.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1525/elementa.2020.00169

Cite as
Ehrlich, J. , Bluhm, B. A. , Peeken, I. , Massicotte, P. , Schaafsma, F. L. , Castellani, G. , Brandt, A. and Flores, H. (2021): Sea-ice associated carbon flux in Arctic spring , Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 9 (1) . doi: 10.1525/elementa.2020.00169

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Geographical region

Research Platforms

ARK > XXIX > 1

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