Rates of summertime biological productivity in the Beaufort Gyre : a comparison between the low and record-low ice conditions of August 2011 and 2012
Stanley, Rachel H. R.
Sandwith, Zoe O.
Williams, William J.
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The Arctic Ocean is changing rapidly as the global climate warms but it is not well known how these changes are affecting biological productivity and the carbon cycle. Here we study the Beaufort Gyre region of the Canada Basin in August and use the large reduction in summertime sea ice extent from 2011 to 2012 to investigate potential impacts of climate warming on biological productivity. We use the gas tracers O2/Ar and triple oxygen isotopes to quantify rates of net community production (NCP) and gross oxygen production (GOP) in the gyre. Comparison of the summer of 2011 with the summer of 2012, the latter of which had record low sea ice coverage, is relevant to how biological productivity might change in a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean. We find that, in the surface waters measured here, GOP in 2012 is significantly greater than in 2011, with the mean basin-wide 2012 GOP = 38 ± 3 mmol O2 m− 2 d− 1 whereas in 2011, mean basin GOP = 16 ± 5 mmol O2 m− 2 d− 1. We hypothesize that this is because the lack of sea ice and consequent increase in light penetration allows photosynthesis to increase in 2012. However, despite the increase in GOP, NCP is the same in the two years; mean NCP in 2012 is 3.0 ± 0.2 mmol O2 m− 2 y− 1 and in 2011 is 3.1 ± 0.2 mmol O2 m− 2 y− 1. This suggests that the heterotrophic community (zooplankton and/or bacteria) increased its activity as well and thus respired the additional carbon produced by the increased photosynthetic production. In both years, stations on the shelf had GOP 3 to 5 times and NCP 2 to 10 times larger than the basin stations. Additionally, we show that in 2011, the NCP/GOP ratio is smallest in regions with highest ice cover, suggesting that the microbial loop was more efficient at recycling carbon in regions where the ice was just starting to melt. These results highlight that although satellite chlorophyll records show, and many models predict, an increase in summertime primary production in the Arctic Basin as it warms, the net amount of carbon processed by the biological pump during summer may not change as a function of ice cover. Thus, a rapid reduction in summertime ice extent may not change the net community productivity or carbon balance in the Beaufort Gyre.
© The Author(s), 2014. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Journal of Marine Systems 147 (2015): 29-44, doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2014.04.006.
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