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Associations among temperature, sea ice and phytoplankton bloom dynamics in the Barents Sea

Kaixing Dong*, Kristina Øie Kvile, Nils Chr. Stenseth, Leif Chr. Stige

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Variations in physical conditions caused by climate change are likely to have large influences on marine organisms, including phytoplankton. We here investigated associations between satellite derived chlorophyll a data from the Barents Sea and two key abiotic factors, sea surface temperature and sea ice concentration. Specifically, we investigated how climate variability, through the measured physical factors, associated with phytoplankton phenology between 1998 and 2014. Associations between sea surface temperature and phytoplankton bloom dynamics differed depending on the area. The spring phytoplankton bloom was earlier and had higher magnitude in warm compared to cold years in the northern part of the Barents Sea, but there was no significant association in the southern part. In seasonally ice-covered regions, the association between the timing of the sea ice retreat and the phytoplankton peak was nonlinear: sea-ice retreat time before mid-May was not associated with bloom timing, whereas the phytoplankton bloom occurred before or immediately following the ice-retreat when the ice retreated after mid-May. Although drivers that are relatively constant across years, such as insolation, probably influenced the spatial gradient in chlorophyll, a space-for-time substitution captured the predicted effects of sea ice retreat on the timing and magnitude of the phytoplankton bloom quite well.