Sea-ice associated carbon flux in Arctic spring

Ehrlich, Julia; Bluhm, B.A.; Peeken, Ilka; Massicotte, Philippe; Schaafsma, F.L.; Castellani, Giulia; Brandt, Angelika; Flores, Hauke


The Svalbard region faces drastic environmental changes, including sea-ice loss and “Atlantification” of Arctic waters, caused primarily by climate warming. These changes result in shifts in the sea-iceassociated (sympagic) community structure, with consequences for the sympagic food web and carbon cycling. To evaluate the role of sympagic biota as a source, sink, and transmitter of carbon, we sampled pack ice and under-ice water (0–2 m) north of Svalbard in spring 2015 by sea-ice coring and under-ice trawling. We estimated biomass and primary production of ice algae and under-ice phytoplankton as well as biomass, carbon demand, and secondary production of sea-ice meiofauna (>10 mm) and under-ice fauna (>300 mm). Sea-ice meiofauna biomass (0.1–2.8 mg C m–2) was dominated by harpacticoid copepods (92%), nauplii (4%), and Ciliophora (3%). Under-ice fauna biomass (3.2–62.7 mg C m–2) was dominated by Calanus copepods (54%). Appendicularia contributed 23% through their high abundance at one station. Herbivorous sympagic fauna dominated the carbon demand across the study area, estimated at 2 mg C m–2 day–1 for ice algae and 4 mg C m–2 day–1 for phytoplankton. This demand was covered by the mean primary production of ice algae (11 mg C m–2 day–1) and phytoplankton (30 mg C m–2 day–1). Hence, potentially 35 mg C m–2 day–1 of algal material could sink from the sympagic realm to deeper layers.The demand of carnivorous under-ice fauna (0.3 mg C m–2 day–1) was barely covered by sympagic secondary production (0.3 mg C m–2 day–1). Our study emphasizes the importance of under-ice fauna for the carbon flux from sea ice to pelagic and benthic habitats and provides a baseline for future comparisons in the context of climate change