Posts Tagged 'Arctic Ocean'

Seasonal marine carbon system processes in an Arctic coastal landfast sea ice environment observed with an innovative underwater sensor platform

Studying carbon dioxide in the ocean helps to understand how the ocean will be impacted by climate change and respond to increasing fossil fuel emissions. The marine carbonate system is not well characterized in the Arctic, where challenging logistics and extreme conditions limit observations of atmospheric CO2 flux and ocean acidification. Here, we present a high-resolution marine carbon system data set covering the complete cycle of sea-ice growth and melt in an Arctic estuary (Nunavut, Canada). This data set was collected through three consecutive yearlong deployments of sensors for pH and partial pressure of CO2 in seawater (pCO2sw) on a cabled underwater observatory. The sensors were remarkably stable compared to discrete samples: While corrections for offsets were required in some instances, we did not observe significant drift over the deployment periods. Our observations revealed a strong seasonality in this marine carbon system. Prior to sea-ice formation, air–sea gas exchange and respiration were the dominant processes, leading to increasing pCO2sw and reduced aragonite saturation state (ΩAr). During sea-ice growth, water column respiration and brine rejection (possibly enriched in dissolved inorganic carbon, relative to alkalinity, due to ikaite precipitation in sea ice) drove pCO2sw to supersaturation and lowered ΩAr to < 1. Shortly after polar sunrise, the ecosystem became net autotrophic, returning pCO2sw to undersaturation. The biological community responsible for this early switch to autotrophy (well before ice algae or phytoplankton blooms) requires further investigation. After sea-ice melt initiated, an under-ice phytoplankton bloom strongly reduced aqueous carbon (chlorophyll-a max of 2.4 µg L–1), returning ΩAr to > 1 after 4.5 months of undersaturation. Based on simple extrapolations of anthropogenic carbon inventories, we suspect that this seasonal undersaturation would not have occurred naturally. At ice breakup, the sensor platform recorded low pCO2sw (230 µatm), suggesting a strong CO2 sink during the open water season.

Continue reading ‘Seasonal marine carbon system processes in an Arctic coastal landfast sea ice environment observed with an innovative underwater sensor platform’

Invariant gametogenic response of dominant infaunal bivalves from the Arctic under ambient and near-future climate change conditions

Arctic marine ecosystems are undergoing a series of major rapid adjustments to the regional amplification of climate change, but there is a paucity of knowledge about how changing environmental conditions might affect reproductive cycles of seafloor organisms. Shifts in species reproductive ecology may influence their entire life-cycle, and, ultimately, determine the persistence and distribution of taxa. Here, we investigate whether the combined effects of warming and ocean acidification based on near-future climate change projections affects the reproductive processes in benthic bivalves (Astarte crenata and Bathyarca glacialis) from the Barents Sea. Both species present large oocytes indicative of lecithotrophic or direct larval development after ∼4 months exposure to ambient [<2°C, ∼400 ppm (CO2)] and near-future [3–5°C, ∼550 ppm (CO2)] conditions, but we find no evidence that the combined effects of acidification and warming affect the size frequency distribution of oocytes. Whilst our observations are indicative of resilience of this reproductive stage to global changes, we also highlight that the successful progression of gametogenesis under standard laboratory conditions does not necessarily mean that successful development and recruitment will occur in the natural environment. This is because the metabolic costs of changing environmental conditions are likely to be offset by, as is common practice in laboratory experiments, feeding ad libitum. We discuss our findings in the context of changing food availability in the Arctic and conclude that, if we are to establish the vulnerability of species and ecosystems, there is a need for holistic approaches that incorporate multiple system responses to change.

Continue reading ‘Invariant gametogenic response of dominant infaunal bivalves from the Arctic under ambient and near-future climate change conditions’

A Polar outlook: potential interactions of micro- and nano-plastic with other anthropogenic stressors


  • MP/NP at the poles should be addressed with chemical and climate stressors.
  • MP/NP and anthropogenic stress interactions may vary seasonally and locally.
  • MP/NP research should focus on polar species enduring high anthropogenic stress.


Polar marine ecosystems may have higher sensitivity than other ecosystems to plastic pollution due to recurrent physical and biological features; presence of ice and high UV radiation, slow growth rates and weak genetic differentiation of resident biota, accumulation of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals, and fast rates of warming and global ocean acidification. Here, we discuss potential sources of and exposure to micro- and nano-plastic in polar marine ecosystems and potential mixture effects of micro- and nano-plastic coupled with chemical and climate related stressors. We address the anthropogenic contaminants likely to be ‘high risk’ for interactions in Arctic and Antarctic waters for reasons such as accumulation under sea-ice, a known sink for plastic particulates. Consequently, we address the potential for localised plastic-chemical interactions and possible seasonal fluctuations in interactions associated with freeze-thaw events. The risks for keystone polar species are also considered, incorporating the behavioural and physiological traits of biota and addressing potential ‘hotspot’ areas. Finally, we discuss a possible direction for future research.

Continue reading ‘A Polar outlook: potential interactions of micro- and nano-plastic with other anthropogenic stressors’

Response of bacterioplankton community structure to an artificial gradient of pCO2 in the Arctic Ocean (update)

In order to test the influences of ocean acidification on the ocean pelagic ecosystem, so far the largest CO2 manipulation mesocosm study (European Project on Ocean Acidification, EPOCA) was performed in Kings Bay (Kongsfjorden), Spitsbergen. During a 30 day incubation, bacterial diversity was investigated using DNA fingerprinting and clone library analysis of bacterioplankton samples. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of the PCR amplicons of the 16S rRNA genes revealed that general bacterial diversity, taxonomic richness and community structure were influenced by the variation of productivity during the time of incubation, but not the degree of ocean acidification. A BIOENV analysis suggested a complex control of bacterial community structure by various biological and chemical environmental parameters. The maximum apparent diversity of bacterioplankton (i.e., the number of T-RFs) in high and low pCO2 treatments differed significantly. A negative relationship between the relative abundance of Bacteroidetes and pCO2 levels was observed for samples at the end of the experiment by the combination of T-RFLP and clone library analysis. Our study suggests that ocean acidification affects the development of bacterial assemblages and potentially impacts the ecological function of the bacterioplankton in the marine ecosystem.

Continue reading ‘Response of bacterioplankton community structure to an artificial gradient of pCO2 in the Arctic Ocean (update)’

Arctic rhodolith beds and their environmental controls (Spitsbergen, Norway)

Coralline algae (Corallinales, Rhodophyta) that form rhodoliths are important ecosystem engineers and carbonate producers in many polar coastal habitats. This study deals with rhodolith communities from Floskjeret (78°18′N), Krossfjorden (79°08′N), and Mosselbukta (79°53′N), off Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard Archipelago, Norway. Strong seasonal variations in temperature, salinity, light regime, sea-ice coverage, and turbidity characterize these localities. The coralline algal flora consists of Lithothamnion glaciale and Phymatolithon tenue. Well-developed rhodoliths were recorded between 27 and 47 m water depth, while coralline algal encrustations on lithoclastic cobbles were detected down to 77 m water depth. At all sites, ambient waters were saturated with respect to both aragonite and calcite, and the rhodolith beds were located predominately at dysphotic water depths. The rhodolith-associated macrobenthic fauna included grazing organisms such as chitons and echinoids. With decreasing water depth, the rhodolith pavements were regularly overgrown by non-calcareous Polysiphonia-like red algae. The corallines are thriving and are highly specialized in their adaptations to the physical environment as well as in their interaction with the associated benthic fauna, which is similar to other polar rhodolith communities. The marine environment of Spitsbergen is already affected by a climate-driven ecological regime shift and will lead to an increased borealization in the near future, with presently unpredictable consequences for coralline red algal communities.

Continue reading ‘Arctic rhodolith beds and their environmental controls (Spitsbergen, Norway)’

Assessing seasonal changes in carbonate parameters across small spatial gradients in the Northeastern Chukchi Sea

Observations of the marine carbonate system were made in 2010 in the northeastern Chukchi Sea to constrain the seasonal progression of carbonate mineral saturation states (Ω) throughout the water column and determine the air-sea flux of carbon dioxide (CO2). As sea ice retreats from the Chukchi Shelf, primary production consumes dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the euphotic zone causing pH and carbonate mineral saturation states to increase. Throughout the summer and early autumn months of 2010, saturation states for calcite and aragonite ranged from 2.5–4.0 and 1.5–2.5, respectively, well about the saturation horizon of 1.0. Much of the organic matter produced during the bloom was vertically exported from the relatively small study area leading to an uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere of at least 340,000 kg-C. The exported organic matter settled near the bottom and was remineralized back into DIC, causing concentrations to increase sharply, particularly in autumn months, driving down pH to as low as 7.75 and suppressing the concentrations of important carbonate minerals to the point that aragonite became undersaturated. The data showed a definitive seasonal progression of this process with aragonite becoming partially undersaturated along the bottom in September, and broadly undersaturated in October. While carbonate saturation states would naturally be suppressed by the high rates of export production and the accumulation of DIC near the bottom, the penetration of anthropogenic CO2 into water column (ocean acidification) has caused these observed undersaturations, which will likely expand as CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise in the coming decades.

Continue reading ‘Assessing seasonal changes in carbonate parameters across small spatial gradients in the Northeastern Chukchi Sea’

Response of halocarbons to ocean acidification in the Arctic (update)

The potential effect of ocean acidification (OA) on seawater halocarbons in the Arctic was investigated during a mesocosm experiment in Spitsbergen in June–July 2010. Over a period of 5 weeks, natural phytoplankton communities in nine ~ 50 m3 mesocosms were studied under a range of pCO2 treatments from ~ 185 μatm to ~ 1420 μatm. In general, the response of halocarbons to pCO2 was subtle, or undetectable. A large number of significant correlations with a range of biological parameters (chlorophyll a, microbial plankton community, phytoplankton pigments) were identified, indicating a biological control on the concentrations of halocarbons within the mesocosms. The temporal dynamics of iodomethane (CH3I) alluded to active turnover of this halocarbon in the mesocosms and strong significant correlations with biological parameters suggested a biological source. However, despite a pCO2 effect on various components of the plankton community, and a strong association between CH3I and biological parameters, no effect of pCO2 was seen in CH3I. Diiodomethane (CH2I2) displayed a number of strong relationships with biological parameters. Furthermore, the concentrations, the rate of net production and the sea-to-air flux of CH2I2 showed a significant positive response to pCO2. There was no clear effect of pCO2 on bromocarbon concentrations or dynamics. However, periods of significant net loss of bromoform (CHBr3) were found to be concentration-dependent, and closely correlated with total bacteria, suggesting a degree of biological consumption of this halocarbon in Arctic waters. Although the effects of OA on halocarbon concentrations were marginal, this study provides invaluable information on the production and cycling of halocarbons in a region of the world’s oceans likely to experience rapid environmental change in the coming decades.

Continue reading ‘Response of halocarbons to ocean acidification in the Arctic (update)’

CO2 increases 14C primary production in an Arctic plankton community (update)

Responses to ocean acidification in plankton communities were studied during a CO2-enrichment experiment in the Arctic Ocean, accomplished from June to July 2010 in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard (78°56′ 2′′ N, 11°53′ 6′′ E). Enclosed in 9 mesocosms (volume: 43.9–47.6 m3), plankton was exposed to CO2 concentrations, ranging from glacial to projected mid-next-century levels. Fertilization with inorganic nutrients at day 13 of the experiment supported the accumulation of phytoplankton biomass, as indicated by two periods of high chl a concentration.

This study tested for CO2 sensitivities in primary production (PP) of particulate organic carbon (PPPOC) and of dissolved organic carbon (PPDOC). Therefore, 14C-bottle incubations (24 h) of mesocosm samples were performed at 1 m depth receiving about 60% of incoming radiation. PP for all mesocosms averaged 8.06 ± 3.64 μmol C L−1 d−1 and was slightly higher than in the outside fjord system. Comparison between mesocosms revealed significantly higher PPPOC at elevated compared to low pCO2 after nutrient addition. PPDOC was significantly higher in CO2-enriched mesocosms before as well as after nutrient addition, suggesting that CO2 had a direct influence on DOC production. DOC concentrations inside the mesocosms increased before nutrient addition and more in high CO2 mesocosms. After addition of nutrients, however, further DOC accumulation was negligible and not significantly different between treatments, indicating rapid utilization of freshly produced DOC. Bacterial biomass production (BP) was coupled to PP in all treatments, indicating that 3.5 ± 1.9% of PP or 21.6 ± 12.5% of PPDOC provided on average sufficient carbon for synthesis of bacterial biomass. During the later course of the bloom, the response of 14C-based PP rates to CO2 enrichment differed from net community production (NCP) rates that were also determined during this mesocosm campaign. We conclude that the enhanced release of labile DOC during autotrophic production at high CO2 exceedingly stimulated activities of heterotrophic microorganisms. As a consequence, increased PP induced less NCP, as suggested earlier for carbon-limited microbial systems in the Arctic.

Continue reading ‘CO2 increases 14C primary production in an Arctic plankton community (update)’

Effect of ocean acidification on the fatty acid composition of a natural plankton community (update)

The effect of ocean acidification on the fatty acid composition of a natural plankton community in the Arctic was studied in a large-scale mesocosm experiment, carried out in Kongsfjorden (Svalbard, Norway) at 79° N. Nine mesocosms of ~50 m3 each were exposed to 8 different pCO2 levels (from natural background conditions to ~1420 μatm), yielding pH values (on the total scale) from ~8.3 to 7.5. Inorganic nutrients were added on day 13. The phytoplankton development during this 30-day experiment passed three distinct phases: (1) prior to the addition of inorganic nutrients, (2) first bloom after nutrient addition, and (3) second bloom after nutrient addition. The fatty acid composition of the natural plankton community was analysed and showed, in general, high percentages of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs): 44–60% of total fatty acids. Positive correlations with pCO2 were found for most PUFAs during phases 2 and/or 3, with the exception of 20:5n3 (eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA), an important diatom marker. These correlations are probably linked to changes in taxonomic composition in response to pCO2. While diatoms (together with prasinophytes and haptophytes) increased during phase 3 mainly in the low and intermediate pCO2 treatments, dinoflagellates were favoured by high CO2 concentrations during the same time period. This is reflected in the development of group-specific fatty acid trophic markers. No indications were found for a generally detrimental effect of ocean acidification on the planktonic food quality in terms of essential fatty acids.

Continue reading ‘Effect of ocean acidification on the fatty acid composition of a natural plankton community (update)’

Response of bacterioplankton activity in an Arctic fjord system to elevated pCO2: results from a mesocosm perturbation study (update)

The effect of elevated seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) on the activity of a natural bacterioplankton community in an Arctic fjord system was investigated by a mesocosm perturbation study in the frame of the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA). A pCO2 range of 175–1085 μatm was set up in nine mesocosms deployed in the Kongsfjorden (Svalbard). The activity of natural extracellular enzyme assemblages increased in response to acidification. Rates of β-glucosidase and leucine-aminopeptidase increased along the gradient of mesocosm pCO2. A decrease in seawater pH of 0.5 units almost doubled rates of both enzymes.

Heterotrophic bacterial activity was closely coupled to phytoplankton productivity in this experiment. The bacterioplankton community responded to rising chlorophyll a concentrations after a lag phase of only a few days with increasing protein production and extracellular enzyme activity. Time-integrated primary production and bacterial protein production were positively correlated, strongly suggesting that higher amounts of phytoplankton-derived organic matter were assimilated by heterotrophic bacteria at increased primary production. Primary production increased under high pCO2 in this study, and it can be suggested that the efficient heterotrophic carbon utilisation had the potential to counteract the enhanced autotrophic CO2 fixation. However, our results also show that beneficial pCO2-related effects on bacterial activity can be mitigated by the top-down control of bacterial abundances in natural microbial communities.

Continue reading ‘Response of bacterioplankton activity in an Arctic fjord system to elevated pCO2: results from a mesocosm perturbation study (update)’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book