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MEPS 497:39-49 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10587

Role of environmental factors on phytoplankton bloom initiation under landfast sea ice in Resolute Passage, Canada

C. J. Mundy1,2,*, Michel Gosselin2, Yves Gratton3, Kristina Brown4, Virginie Galindo5, Karley Campbell1, Maurice Levasseur5, David Barber1, Tim Papakyriakou1, Simon Bélanger

1Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS), University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada
2Institut des sciences de la mer (ISMER), Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Québec G5L 3A1, Canada
3Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique—Eau, Terre et Environnement, Université du Québec, Québec, Québec G1P 4S5, Canada
4Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
5Département de biologie, Université Laval, Québec, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada
6Département de biologie, chimie et géographie, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Québec G5L 3A1, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: It has been common practice in scientific studies to assume negligible phytoplankton production when the ocean is ice-covered, due to the strong light attenuation properties of snow, sea ice, and ice algae. Recent observations of massive under-ice blooms in the Arctic challenge this concept and call for a re-evaluation of light conditions prevailing under ice during the melt period. Using hydrographic data collected under landfast ice cover in Resolute Passage, Nunavut, Canada between 9 May and 21 June 2010, we documented the exponential growth phase of a substantial under-ice phytoplankton bloom. Numerous factors appeared to influence bloom initiation: (1) transmitted light increased with the onset of snowmelt and termination of the ice algal bloom; (2) initial phytoplankton growth resulted in the accumulation of biomass below the developing surface melt layer where nutrient concentrations were high and turbulent mixing was relatively low; and (3) melt pond formation rapidly increased light transmission, while spring-tidal energy helped form a surface mixed layer influenced by ice melt—both were believed to influence the final rapid increase in phytoplankton growth. By the end of the study, nitrate+nitrite was depleted in the upper 10 m of the water column and the under-ice bloom had accumulated 508 mg chl a m-2 with a new production estimate of 17.5 g C m-2 over the upper 50 m of the water column. The timing of bloom initiation with melt onset suggests a strong link to climate change where sea ice is both thinning and melting earlier, the implication being an earlier and more ubiquitous phytoplankton bloom in Arctic ice-covered regions.


KEY WORDS: Under-ice bloom · Phytoplankton · Arctic · Sea ice melt · Transmitted PAR


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Cite this article as: Mundy CJ, Gosselin M, Gratton Y, Brown K and others (2014) Role of environmental factors on phytoplankton bloom initiation under landfast sea ice in Resolute Passage, Canada. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 497:39-49. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10587

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