Sea-ice algal phenology in a warmer Arctic

Journal: Science Advances

Published: 2019-05-01

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav4830

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 3

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Research Highlight

The future of Arctic’s icebound algae

© MB Photography/Getty

© MB Photography/Getty

A warmer Arctic could boost the productivity of sea-ice algae but restrict its growing season.

The disappearance of Arctic sea ice is a symbolic symptom of global warming, but estimating the full extent of its ecological impacts is challenging.

A team that included researchers from the University of Cape Town used 18 climate models to predict how the growth of algae living in pockets of seawater in the ice would be affected as the planet warms.

Thinning ice would lead to greater algal productivity due to the increase in light penetrating the ice, but this may be counterbalanced by the smaller area and shorter duration of sea-ice cover. However, the predicted impacts vary with location between the Arctic Circle and the pole.

Sea-ice algae supports the Arctic’s modest food web during the long, dark winters, making it important to untangle these diverse impacts before time runs out.

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  1. Science Advances 5, eaav4830 (2019). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav4830
Institutions Share
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Finland 0.33
University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa 0.33
Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC), Italy 0.33