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First Arctic sea ice meiofauna food web analysis based on abundance, biomass and stable isotope ratios of sea ice metazoan fauna from near-shore Arctic fast ice

Rolf Gradinger*, Bodil A. Bluhm

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Particulate organic carbon produced in sea ice is often included in stable isotopic food web studies of polar seas as a single ‘ice POM’ value. During ten field trips to landfast ice off Alaska’s north coast, we examined the seasonal contribution of sea ice-associated meiofauna to total POM, and the trophic structure within the sea ice using bulk carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios. Algal biomass, POC/PON and meiofaunal abundances increased after the polar night, and a suite of different metazoan meiofauna contributed seasonally substantially to total ice POC amount. δ13C values of meiofauna generally tracked the seasonal enrichment of δ13C in POC suggesting a trophic relationship, also supported by increasing body mass of meiofauna over the seasons. Δ15N of individual meiofaunal taxa varied by at least 1.5 trophic levels. δ13C values of some meiofauna were very close to or below POC values suggesting the use of other carbon sources, perhaps including DOC and bacteria among others. Estimated potential grazing rates, based on generated C and N content of individuals in this study, confirmed the earlier estimated generally low grazing impact of the meiofauna on the ice algal spring bloom, leaving large portions of the produced matter as food for pelagic and benthic organisms. The findings suggest a more complex sea ice based food web structure that should be incorporated in food web, conceptual and other models than is currently common.