Sea ice algae dominated by diatoms inhabit the brine channels of the Arctic sea ice and serve as the base of the Arctic marine food web in the spring. I studied sea ice diatoms in the bottom 10 cm of first year land-fast sea ice off the coast of Barrow, AK, in spring of 2011, 2012, and 2013. I investigated the variability in the biomass and the community composition of these sea-ice diatoms between bloom phases, as a function of overlying snow depth and over time. The dominant genera were the pennate diatoms Nitzschia, Navicula, Thalassiothrix, and Fragilariopsis with only a minor contribution by centric diatoms. While diatom biomass as estimated by organic carbon changed significantly between early, peak, and declining bloom phases (average of 1.6 mg C L-1, 5.7 mg C L-1, and 1.0 mg C L-1, respectively), the relative ratio of the dominant diatom groups did not change. However, after export, when the diatoms melt out of the ice into the underlying water, diatom biomass dropped by ~73% and the diatom community shifted to one dominated by centric diatoms. I also found that diatom biomass was ~77% lower under high snow cover (>20 cm) compared to low snow cover (<8 cm); however, the ratio of the diatom categories relative to particulate organic carbon (POC) was again unchanged. The diatom biomass was significantly different between the three sampling years (average of 2.4 mg C L-1 in 2011, 1.1 mg C L-1 in 2012, and 5.4 mg C L-1 in 2013, respectively) as was the contribution of all of the dominant genera to POC. I hypothesize the latter to be due to differences in the history of ice sheet formation each year. The temporal variability of these algal communities will influence their availability for pelagic or benthic consumers. Furthermore, in an Arctic that is changing rapidly with earlier sea ice and snowmelt, this time series study will constitute an important baseline for further studies on how the changing Arctic influences the algal community immured in sea ice.
- Temporal and light-dependent variability of algal communities in land-fast Arctic sea ice
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by Kyle Kinzler