Sea Ice Ecology
Sea ice ecology addresses sea ice as an ecosystem focusing particularly on the plankton – i.e. sea ice algae – that are associated with or attached to the underside of the ice. Ice algae are microscopic autotrophs. They are responsible for ca. 10 – 15% of marine primary production in the Arctic, and are the sole available carbon source for higher trophic levels in the spring months before ice melt trigger the pelagic production. Ice algae occupy an extreme habitat that is both cold and, for six months of the year, completely dark. This is followed a summer period of almost 24 h daylight, although <4% of the incident light can penetrate the snow and ice. This course will consider the following topics: How are ice algae adapted to this extreme environment? What is the physico-chemical environment they live in? What limits their growth? How much biomass do ice algae form? Will ice algae persist given the reduction in summer ice cover in the Arctic? What are the differences in ice algal ecology between the Arctic and Antarctic? What is the significance of sea ice algae in relation to atmospheric CO2 and climate change?