Background info on Arctic sea ice ecology II

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Ice algae in brine channel

(picture: © C. Krembs:

Frozen sea water is a three phase system. Liquid filled channels of saline brine occupy narrow channels and pockets between the ice crystals.
These channels are the environment in which thousands of microscopic bacteria, plants and animals are thriving for nutrients and food.

Techniques developed by a team from the University of Washington and UAF (for details, see Junge et al.(2001): A Microscopic Approach to Investigate Bacteria under In-Situ Conditions in Sea-Ice Samples., Ann. Glaciol., 33, 304-310) for staining microorganisms under in-situ temperatures within the ice matrix have allowed visualization of individual cells in their environment (see also



Movie visualizing the brine channel structure in first-year ice (

The structure of the brine channels is dependent on various environmental growth conditions. We hypothesize, that the availability of nutrients for algal growth is controlled by this structure (and their control of sea-ice transport properties).

page modified July 11, 2003 .