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Title: Unraveling phytoplankton community dynamics in the northern Chukchi and western Beaufort seas amid climate change
Abstract: The timing of sea ice retreat, light availability, and sea surface stratification largely control the phytoplankton community composition in the Chukchi Sea. This region is experiencing a significant warming trend, an overall decrease in sea ice cover, and a documented decline in annual sea ice persistence and thickness over the past several decades. The consequences of earlier seasonal sea ice retreat and a longer sea-ice-free season on phytoplankton community composition warrant investigation. We applied multivariate statistical techniques to elucidate the mechanisms that relate environmental variables to phytoplankton community composition in the Chukchi Sea using data collected during a single field campaign in the summer of 2011. Three phytoplankton groups emerged that were correlated with sea ice, sea surface temperature, nutrients, salinity, and light. Longer ice-free duration in a future Chukchi Sea will result in warmer sea surface temperatures and nutrient depletion, which we conclude will favor other phytoplankton types over larger diatoms. Plain Language Summary: In the Chukchi Sea, the seasonality of sea ice shapes ecosystem structure of the water column under both sea-ice-covered and sea-ice-free conditions. As such, phytoplankton community composition under both conditions responds to water column structure and nutrient availability. Owing to recent warming in the Arctic, sea ice is thinner and retreats earlier. To date, we do not fully understand the long-term consequences of earlier sea ice retreat on phytoplankton community composition and carbon biomass. To this end, we used environmental and phytoplankton data to relate how differences in ecosystem function under sea-ice-covered and sea-ice-free conditions govern phytoplankton communities. The results from this data set suggest that a future, sea-ice-free Chukchi Sea will exhibit lower phytoplankton biomass, impacting the food web and carbon export.  more » « less
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Geophysical research letters
Medium: X
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National Science Foundation
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