Sea‐ice microbial communities in the Central Arctic Ocean: limited responses to short‐term pCO2 perturbations

The Arctic Ocean is more susceptible to ocean acidification than other marine environments due to its weaker buffering capacity, while its cold surface water with relatively low salinity promotes atmospheric CO2 uptake. We studied how sea‐ice microbial communities in the central Arctic Ocean may be affected by changes in the carbonate system expected as a consequence of ocean acidification. In a series of four experiments during late summer 2018 aboard the icebreaker Oden, we addressed microbial growth, production of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), photosynthetic activity, and bacterial assemblage structure as sea‐ice microbial communities were exposed to elevated partial pressures of CO2 (pCO2). We incubated intact, bottom ice‐core sections and dislodged, under‐ice algal aggregates (dominated by Melosira arctica) in separate experiments under approximately 400, 650, 1000, and 2000 μatm pCO2 for 10 d under different nutrient regimes. The results indicate that the growth of sea‐ice algae and bacteria was unaffected by these higher pCO2 levels, and concentrations of DOC and EPS were unaffected by a shifted inorganic C/N balance, resulting from the CO2 enrichment. These central Arctic sea‐ice microbial communities thus appear to be largely insensitive to short‐term pCO2 perturbations. Given the natural, seasonally driven fluctuations in the carbonate system of sea ice, its resident microorganisms may be sufficiently tolerant of large variations in pCO2 and thus less vulnerable than pelagic communities to the impacts of ocean acidification, increasing the ecological importance of sea‐ice microorganisms even as the loss of Arctic sea ice continues.

Torstensson A., Margolin A. R., Showalter G. M., Smith Jr. W. O., Shadwick E. H., Carpenter S. D., Bolinesi F. & Deming J. W., in press. Sea‐ice microbial communities in the Central Arctic Ocean: limited responses to short‐term pCO2 perturbations. Limnology & OceanographyArticle.

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