Erik Jeppesen

Nutrient availability limits biological production in Arctic sea ice melt ponds

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  • Heidi Louise Sørensen, University of Southern Denmark, Greenland Climate Research Centre, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources
  • ,
  • Bo Thamdrup, University of Southern Denmark
  • ,
  • Erik Jeppesen
  • Søren Rysgaard
  • Ronnie Nøhr Glud, University of Southern Denmark, Greenland Climate Research Centre, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Scottish Association for Marine Science, Scottish Marine Institute, SAMS, The Scottish Association for Marine Science

Every spring and summer melt ponds form at the surface of polar sea ice and become habitats where biological production may take place. Previous studies report a large variability in the productivity, but the causes are unknown. We investigated if nutrients limit the productivity in these first-year ice melt ponds by adding nutrients to three enclosures ([1] PO4 3−, [2] NO3 , and [3] PO4 3− and NO3 ) and one natural melt pond (PO4 3− and NO3 ), while one enclosure and one natural melt pond acted as controls. After 7–13 days, Chl a concentrations and cumulative primary production were between two- and tenfold higher in the enclosures and natural melt ponds with nutrient addition compared with their respective controls, with the largest increase occurring in the enclosures. Separate additions of PO4 3− and NO3 in the enclosures led to intermediate increases in productivity, suggesting co-limitation of nutrients. Bacterial production and the biovolume of ciliates, which were the dominant grazers, were positively correlated with primary production, showing a tight coupling between primary production and both microbial activity and ciliate grazing. To our knowledge, this study is the first to ascertain nutrient limitation in melt ponds. We also document that the addition of nutrients, although at relative high concentrations, can stimulate biological productivity at several trophic levels. Given the projected increase in first-year ice, increased melt pond coverage during the Arctic spring and potential additional nutrient supply from, e.g. terrestrial sources imply that biological activity of melt ponds may become increasingly important for the sympagic carbon cycling in the future Arctic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolar Biology
Pages (from-to)1593–1606
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Arctic, Bacterial production, Grazers and higher trophic levels, Nutrients, Primary production, Sea ice melt ponds

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