In this study, we present unique data collected with a Surface and Under-Ice Trawl (SUIT) during five campaigns between 2012 and 2017, covering the spring to summer and autumn transition in the Arctic Ocean, and the seasons of winter and summer in the Southern Ocean. The SUIT was equipped with a sensor array from which we retrieved: sea-ice thickness, the light field at the underside of sea ice, chlorophyll a concentration in the ice (in-ice chl a), and the salinity, temperature, and chl a concentration of the under-ice water. With an average trawl distance of about 2 km, and a global transect length of more than 117 km in both polar regions, the present work represents the first multi-seasonal habitat characterization based on kilometer-scale profiles. The present data highlight regional and seasonal patterns in sea-ice properties in the Polar Ocean. Light transmittance through Arctic sea ice reached almost 100% in summer, when the ice was thinner and melt ponds spread over the ice surface. However, the daily integrated amount of light under sea ice was maximum in spring. Compared to the Arctic, Antarctic sea-ice was thinner, snow depth was thicker, and sea-ice properties were more uniform between seasons. Light transmittance was low in winter with maximum transmittance of 73%. Despite thicker snow depth, the overall under-ice light was considerably higher during Antarctic summer than during Arctic summer. Spatial autocorrelation analysis shows that Arctic sea ice was characterized by larger floes compared to the Antarctic. In both Polar regions, the patch size of the transmittance followed the spatial variability of sea-ice thickness. In-ice chl a in the Arctic Ocean remained below 0.39 mg chl a m−2, whereas it exceeded 7 mg chl a m−2 during Antarctic winter, when water chl a concentrations remained below 1.5 mg chl a m−2, thus highlighting its potential as an important carbon source for overwintering organisms. The data analyzed in this study can improve large-scale physical and ecosystem models, habitat mapping studies and time series analyzed in the context of climate change effects and marine management.
The Arctic marine system is large and heterogeneous, harsh and remote, and now changing very rapidly, all of which contribute to our current inadequate understanding of its basic structures and functions. In particular, many key processes within and external to the Arctic Ocean are intrinsically linked to its freshwater system, which itself is undergoing rapid and uncertain change. The role of the freshwater system (delivery, disposition, storage, and export) in the Arctic Ocean has recently received significant attention; however, due to the fact that few studies are able to cover all regions and seasons equally, we still lack an accessible, unified pan-Arctic representation generalizing the impacts of freshwater on the upper Arctic Ocean where many biological and geochemical interactions occur. This work seeks to distill our current understanding of the Arctic freshwater system, and its impacts, into conceptual diagrams which we use as a basis to speculate on the impact of future changes. We conclude that an understanding of regional and seasonal variability is required in order to gain a pan-Arctic perspective on the physical-geochemical-biological state of the upper Arctic Ocean. As an example of regionality, enhanced stratification due to freshening will be more important in the Pacific influenced Amerasian Basin, which stores the bulk of the freshwater burden, while the Atlantic influenced Eurasian Basin will experience more consequences related to increased heating from advective sources. River influenced coastal regions will experience a mosaic of these and other biogeochemical effects, whereas glacial fjords may follow their own unique trajectories due to the loss of upwelling mechanisms at glacial fronts. As an example of seasonality, the continued modulation of the sea ice freeze-melt cycle has increased the seasonal freshwater burden in the deep basins dramatically as the system progresses toward ice-free summer conditions, but will eventually reverse, reducing the seasonal flux of freshwater by more than half in a future, perennially ice-free ocean. It is our goal that these conceptualizations, based on the current state-of-the-art, will drive hypothesis-based research to investigate the physical-biogeochemical response to a changing freshwater cycle in a future Arctic Ocean with greatly reduced ice cover.
The present study quantifies the magnitude of Arctic sea-ice loss in the boreal summer (July–September), especially in September at different timescales (daily, monthly, annual and decadal). The investigation on the accelerated decline in the Arctic sea-ice was performed using different datasets of passive microwave satellite imagery and model reanalysis. Arctic sea-ice declined rapidly in the boreal summer (-10.2 ± 0.8 %decade−1) during 1979–2018, while, the highest decline in sea-ice extent (SIE) (i.e., 82,300 km2 yr−1/-12.8 ± 1.1 %decade−1) is reported in the month of September. Since late 1979, the SIE recorded the sixth-lowest decline during September 2018 (4.71 million km2). Incidentally, the records of twelve lowest extents in the satellite era occurred in the last twelve years. The loss of SIE and sea-ice concentration (SIC) are attributed to the impacts of land-ocean warming and the northward heat advection into the Arctic Ocean. This has resulted in considerable thinning of sea-ice thickness (SIT) and reduction in the multiyear ice (MYI) for summer 2018. Global and Arctic land-ocean temperatures have increased by ~0.78 °C and ~3.1 °C, respectively, over the past 40 years (1979–2018) while substantial warming rates have been identified in the Arctic Ocean (~3.5 °C in the last 40-year) relative to the Arctic land (~2.8 °C in the last 40-year). The prevailing ocean-atmospheric warming in the Arctic, the SIE, SIC and SIT have reduced, resulting in the decline of the sea-ice volume (SIV) at the rate of -3.0 ± 0.2 (1000 km3 decade−1). Further, it observed that the SIV in September 2018 was three times lower than September 1979. The present study demonstrates the linkages of sea-ice dynamics to ice drifting and accelerated melting due to persistent low pressure, high air-ocean temperatures, supplemented by the coupled ocean-atmospheric forcing.
Data from coastal tide gauges, oceanographic moorings, and a numerical model show that Arctic storm surges force continental shelf waves (CSWs) that dynamically link the circumpolar Arctic continental shelf system. These trains of barotropic disturbances result from coastal convergences driven by cross-shelf Ekman transport. Observed propagation speeds of 600−3000 km day–1, periods of 2−6 days, wavelengths of 2000−7000 km, and elevation maxima near the coast but velocity maxima near the upper slope are all consistent with theoretical CSW characteristics. Other, more isolated events are tied to local responses to propagating storm systems. Energy and phase propagation is from west to east: ocean elevation anomalies in the Laptev Sea follow Kara Sea anomalies by one day and precede Chukchi and Beaufort Sea anomalies by 4−6 days. Some leakage and dissipation occurs. About half of the eastward-propagating energy in the Kara Sea passes Severnaya Zemlya into the Laptev Sea. About half of the eastward-propagating energy from the East Siberian Sea passes southward through Bering Strait, while one quarter is dissipated locally in the Chukchi Sea and another quarter passes eastward into the Beaufort Sea. Likewise, CSW generation in the Bering Sea can trigger elevation and current speed anomalies downstream in the Northeast Chukchi Sea of 25 cm and 20 cm s–1, respectively. Although each event is ephemeral, the large number of CSWs generated annually suggest that they represent a non-negligible source of time-averaged energy transport and bottom stress-induced dissipative mixing, particularly near the outer shelf and upper slope. Coastal water level and landfast ice breakout event forecasts should include CSW effects and associated lag times from distant upstream winds.
Climate change in the Arctic is occurring at a rapid rate. In Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the world’s northernmost city, deadly avalanches and permafrost thaw-induced architectural destruction has disrupted local governance norms and responsibilities. In the North Atlantic, the warming ocean temperatures have contributed to a rapid expansion of the mackerel stock which has spurred both geo-political tensions but also tensions at the science-policy interface of fish quota setting. These local climate-induced changes have created a domino-like chain reaction that intensifies through time as a warming Arctic penetrates deeper into responsibilities of governing institutions and science institutions. In face with the increasing uncertain futures of climate-induced changes, policy choices also increase revealing a type of “snowballing” of possible futures facing decision-makers. We introduce a portmanteau-inspired concept called “The Melting Snowball Effect” that encompasses the chain reaction (“domino effect”) that increases the number of plausible scenarios (“snowball effect”) with climate change (melting snow, ice and thawing permafrost). We demonstrate the use of “The Melting Snowball Effect” as a heuristic within a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) framework of anticipation, engagement and reflection. To do this, we developed plausible scenarios based on participatory stakeholder workshops and narratives from in-depth interviews for deliberative discussions among academics, citizens and policymakers, designed for informed decision-making in response to climate change complexities. We observe generational differences in discussing future climate scenarios, particularly that the mixed group where three generations were represented had the most diverse and thorough deliberations.
The relationships between infaunal diversity and ecosystem function of biogenic structures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic remain poorly documented. Our study investigated the influence of sponge gardens at the Frobisher Bay site (137 m) and bamboo corals at the Baffin Bay site (1007 m) on the infaunal community structure and benthic ecosystem functioning. The occurrence of both types of biogenic structure type enhanced particular taxa and/or feeding guilds. A large density of suspension filter feeders was observed in bamboo coral sediment, whereas bare sediment exhibited a large proportion of nematodes and deposit-detritus feeders. Sponge gardens’ sediment showed a high proportion of isopods, Paraonidae polychaetes and up/down conveyors whereas bare sediment exhibited a large density of filter feeders. Through incubation cores, we measured ex situ benthic nutrient and oxygen fluxes at the sediment-water interface in each habitat and site. Biogeochemical fluxes varied significantly between habitats in the Baffin Bay site with a significant impact of bamboo coral habitat on nutrient fluxes (nitrate, ammonium, and silicate). Surprisingly, the sediment hosting bamboo corals acted as a source of nitrate and ammonium reaching values similar or higher to the Frobisher site despite the difference in water depth, and thus food supply between the two sites. These significant releases could derive from (i) a high organic matter deposition in bamboo coral habitat, allowed by their erected structure, (ii) a high efficiency of bioturbators (surficial modifiers and burrowers) mixing the surface layer of the sediment, and (iii) the difference in sediment type. Our study highlighted that, compared to its adjacent habitat, the presence of bamboo corals appeared to enhance the infaunal density and nutrient release of its sediment. In contrast, the impact of sponge gardens was not as clear as for bamboo coral habitat, likely due to the relatively significant presence of megabiota in the sponge garden adjacent habitat. Thus, our results based on a relatively small sample size, indicate that the bamboo coral habitat seems to increase the efficiency of deep-benthic ecosystem functioning, while that of sponge garden on the shallow ecosystem functioning remains uncertain.
Cold-seep benthic communities in the Arctic exist at the nexus of two extreme environments; one reflecting the harsh physical extremes of the Arctic environment and another reflecting the chemical extremes and strong environmental gradients associated with seafloor seepage of methane and toxic sulfide-enriched sediments. Recent ecological investigations of cold seeps at numerous locations on the margins of the Arctic Ocean basin reveal that seabed seepage of reduced gas and fluids strongly influence benthic communities and associated marine ecosystems. These Arctic seep communities are mostly different from both conventional Arctic benthic communities as well as cold-seep systems elsewhere in the world. They are characterized by a lack of large specialized chemo-obligate polychetes and mollusks often seen at non-Arctic seeps, but, nonetheless, have substantially higher benthic abundance and biomass compared to adjacent Arctic areas lacking seeps. Arctic seep communities are dominated by expansive tufts or meadows of siboglinid polychetes, which can reach densities up to >3 × 105 ind.m–2. The enhanced autochthonous chemosynthetic production, combined with reef-like structures from methane-derived authigenic carbonates, provides a rich and complex local habitat that results in aggregations of non-seep specialized fauna from multiple trophic levels, including several commercial species. Cold seeps are far more widespread in the Arctic than thought even a few years ago. They exhibit in situ benthic chemosynthetic production cycles that operate on different spatial and temporal cycles than the sunlight-driven counterpart of photosynthetic production in the ocean’s surface. These systems can act as a spatio-temporal bridge for benthic communities and associated ecosystems that may otherwise suffer from a lack of consistency in food quality from the surface ocean during seasons of low production. As climate change impacts accelerate in Arctic marginal seas, photosynthetic primary production cycles are being modified, including in terms of changes in the timing, magnitude, and quality of photosynthetic carbon, whose delivery to the seabed fuels benthic communities. Furthermore, an increased northward expansion of species is expected as a consequence of warming seas. This may have implications for dispersal and evolution of both chemosymbiotic species as well as for background taxa in the entire realm of the Arctic Ocean basin and fringing seas.
The large declines in Arctic sea-ice age and extent over the last decades could have altered the diversity of sea-ice associated unicellular eukaryotes (referred to as sea-ice protists). A time series from the Russian ice-drift stations from the 1980s to the 2010s revealed changes in community composition and diversity of sea-ice protists from the Central Arctic Ocean. However, these observations have been biased by varying levels of taxonomic resolution and sampling effort, both of which were higher in the early years at drift stations on multiyear sea ice (MYI) in the Central Arctic Ocean. We here combine the Russian ice-drift station data with more recent data to (1) identify common sea-ice protists (in particular diatoms) in drifting sea ice of the Central Arctic Ocean; (2) characterize the potential change in such communities over 35 years in terms of species number and/or community structure; and (3) relate those shifts to relevant environmental factors. In terms of relative abundance, pennate diatoms were the most abundant sea-ice protists across the Arctic, contributing 60% on average of counted cells. Two pennate colony-forming diatom species, Nitzschia frigida and Fragilariopsis cylindrus, dominated at all times, but solitary diatom species were also frequently encountered, e.g., Cylindrotheca closterium and Navicula directa. Multiyear sea ice contained 39% more diatom species than first-year ice (FYI) and showed a relatively even distribution along entire sea-ice cores. The decrease in MYI over the last decades explained the previously reported decreases in sea-ice protist diversity. Our results also indicate that up to 75% of diatom species are incorporated into FYI from the surrounding sea ice and the water column within a few months after the initial formation of the ice, while the remaining 25% are incorporated during ice drift. Thus, changing freeze-up scenarios, as currently witnessed in the Central Arctic, might result in long-term changes of the biodiversity of sea-ice protists in this region.
Half of the Arctic Ocean is deep sea (>1000 m), and this area is currently transitioning from being permanently ice-covered to being seasonally ice-free. Despite these drastic changes, it remains unclear how organisms are distributed in the deep Arctic basins, and particularly what feeds them. Here, we summarize data on auto- and heterotrophic organisms in the benthic, pelagic, and sympagic realm of the Arctic Ocean basins from the past three decades and put together an organic carbon budget for this region. Based on the budget, we investigate whether our current understanding of primary and secondary production and vertical carbon flux are balanced by the current estimates of the carbon demand by deep-sea benthos. At first glance, our budget identifies a mismatch between the carbon supply by primary production (3–46 g C m−2 yr−1), the carbon demand of organisms living in the pelagic (7–17 g C m−2) and the benthic realm (< 5 g C m−2 yr−1) versus the low vertical carbon export (at 200 m: 0.1–1.5 g C m−2 yr−1, at 3000–4000 m: 0.01–0.73 g C m−2 yr−1). To close the budget, we suggest that episodic events of large, fast sinking ice algae aggregates, export of dead zooplankton, as well as large food falls need to be quantified and included. This work emphasizes the clear need for a better understanding of the quantity, phenology, and the regionality of carbon supply and demand in the deep Arctic basins, which will allow us to evaluate how the ecosystem may change in the future.
In recent years, special attention has been paid to the issues of rational nature management and ecological state of the natural environment of the Arctic zone, given the important economic, social and environmental role of this region. The active industrial development of the Arctic zone unambiguously leads to a change in the living conditions of marine biological resources. The Arctic plays an important role in Russian fisheries. The paper considers the conceptual provisions of rational nature management in the conditions of industrial development of the Russian Arctic and identifies the problems and conditions for sustainable development of the Russian fisheries.