Through investigating changes in sea ice algae nutrient content and shifts in community composition, this project studies the impacts of sea ice decline on energy transfer within the Arctic marine ecosystem. It is critical that our understanding of the potential consequences of these changes are understood, as sea ice microalgal communities make significant contributions to primary production in polar regions and play an important role in the timing of zooplankton reproduction and therefore the quantity and quality of secondary production (Søreide et al. 2010). However, the infrastructure they rely on, arctic sea ice, has declined ~10.1% per decade since 1970 (Post et al. 2019).
This project consists of three parts; (i) a field-based study within various fjords in Svalbard to obtain sea ice algae samples, during the spring bloom, over a natural ice and snow thickness (therefore light transmittance) gradient. As part of this field study, an in situ light manipulation experiment will be performed to measure the effect of changing light conditions directly. (ii) In the laboratory part of this study, these samples will be analysed for community composition and shifts in macromolecular (i.e. protein, lipid, carbohydrate) content of key ice algae taxa will be determined on a single-cell level using synchrotron based Fourier Transform Infrared Microspectroscopy (S-FTIR). (iii) In the modelling component of the study, these results will be utilised to determine how sea ice decline induced changes to sea ice algae community composition and nutrient content may alter nutrient availability to the marine ecosystem.
Post et al. (2019) https://doi.org/10.1126/SCIADV.AAW9883.
Søreide et al. (2010). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02175.x.