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Collaborative Research: Changes in Arctic Sea Ice and their Impact on Timing of Life History and Production of Zooplankton


Project start
Project end
Type of project
Project theme
Ocean & fiord systems
Project topic
Computer science & e-learning

Project details

Science / project summary

Nontechnical This project will demonstrate the impact of climate-induced changes in the arctic physical system on the timing of primary production and a single important copepod species. This species serves as a model for understanding the interplay between the physical and biological processes in arctic systems and how the changing timing and sequence of events due to climate change may influence the success or failure of that species. The results can be extrapolated to other organisms and groups that are similarly dependent on seasonal cycles and on the timing of events in the physical and biological environment to better predict the changes in this ecosystem under changing climate. The project will introduce K-12 students to ways in which climate change may influence ecosystems in the Arctic. The educational activities and curricula developed through this project will be made available broadly and the team plans to sponsor one undergraduate each year in a student fellowship program to pursue a research project associated with this work. A post-doctoral investigator will participate in the modeling and the team will disseminate its results to the scientific community through conferences and meetings and to the broader public through social media and online presence. Technical Arctic organisms are adapted to the strong seasonality of environmental forcing. A small timing mismatch between species' life histories and their physical and biological environment can have significant consequences for them and for the entire arctic ecosystem. Climate warming is likely to cause earlier snowmelt on sea ice and speed its retreat in the Arctic, thus causing variability in the timing (phenology) of marine primary production. Such changes will significantly impact the pelagic consumers that rely on that primary production. The focus of this study is to understand the coupling between the physical environment, the timing and magnitude of primary production, and the secondary production of pelagic consumers by focusing on a single dominant species as a model. The copepod Calanus glacialis is a key member of arctic ecosystems, critical in the linkages among sea ice and ocean conditions, primary production, secondary production, upper trophic level consumers, and ultimately human communities. It also follows a life history that is closely timed to pulses of ice algal and phytoplankton primary production in the Arctic Ocean, making it an attractive focus of study because of the potential vulnerability of that life history to climatically induced disruptions to the biological and physical environment. The objectives are: to describe past conditions and predict future changes to selected characteristics of the marine physical environment that influence the production response (e.g., sea ice, water temperature); to explore the physical and biological factors controlling C. glacialis population dynamics; to investigate the interannual variability of its spatial distributions and possible shifts in life history strategy under ongoing climate change; and to identify the implications of those spatial and temporal shifts to secondary production and beyond. The research will combine a copepod individual-based model and a concentration-based biology-ice-ocean model into a spatially-explicit biological-physical coupled model, integrating remotely sensed and in-situ observational data and laboratory-derived copepod vital rates to project plankton production under future climate change scenarios.