Under-ice phytoplankton blooms inhibited by spring convective mixing in refreezing leads
Lowry, Kate E.
Pickart, Robert S.
Mills, Matthew M.
Lewis, Kate M.
Joy-Warren, Hannah L.
van Dijken, Gert L.
Arrigo, Kevin R.
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Spring phytoplankton growth in polar marine ecosystems is limited by light availability beneath ice-covered waters, particularly early in the season prior to snowmelt and melt pond formation. Leads of open water increase light transmission to the ice-covered ocean and are sites of air-sea exchange. We explore the role of leads in controlling phytoplankton bloom dynamics within the sea ice zone of the Arctic Ocean. Data are presented from spring measurements in the Chukchi Sea during the Study of Under-ice Blooms In the Chukchi Ecosystem (SUBICE) program in May and June 2014. We observed that fully consolidated sea ice supported modest under-ice blooms, while waters beneath sea ice with leads had significantly lower phytoplankton biomass, despite high nutrient availability. Through an analysis of hydrographic and biological properties, we attribute this counterintuitive finding to springtime convective mixing in refreezing leads of open water. Our results demonstrate that waters beneath loosely consolidated sea ice (84–95% ice concentration) had weak stratification and were frequently mixed below the critical depth (the depth at which depth-integrated production balances depth-integrated respiration). These findings are supported by theoretical model calculations of under-ice light, primary production, and critical depth at varied lead fractions. The model demonstrates that under-ice blooms can form even beneath snow-covered sea ice in the absence of mixing but not in more deeply mixed waters beneath sea ice with refreezing leads. Future estimates of primary production should account for these phytoplankton dynamics in ice-covered waters.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2018. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 123 (2018): 90–109, doi:10.1002/2016JC012575.
Suggested CitationJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 123 (2018): 90–109
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