Background info on Arctic sea ice ecology

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Arctic pack ice cover in August 2002

Sea ice is a key component in structuring polar environments. Beside its important role as a platform for marine mammals and birds, it serves as a habitat for a unique highly specialized community of bacteria, algae, protozoa and metazoa, which contribute to the biogeochemical cycles of the Arctic and Antarctic seas.



Female polar bear with two cubs. The famous Norwegian explorer Fridjof Nansen mentioned already in 1897, that seal hunters had already discovered the close relation between ice algae production and higher trophic levels when they called discolored sea ice as seal-ice. This coloration is caused by billions of unicellular algae living within the sea ice.
Under-ice amphipod Gammarus wilkitzkii Changes in the seasonal ice cover for the Arctic and Antarctic.
Arctic cod - Boreogadus saida - in a gap of an ice floe. Ice algal species Melosira arctica
Algal development in sea ice and sea water close to Narwhal Island, Beaufort Sea (from Horner 1980)

Measurements of ice algal primary production are stille scarce. Estimates of its contribution to total primary production range from about 4 to 26 % and even above 50% in the permanently ice-covered central Arctic.

Productivity occurs in the coastal fast ice prior to the summer melt with a strong production peak in spring.

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page modified February 21, 2003 .