SOURCE: The Independent
DATE: October 17, 2018
SNIP: Declining Arctic sea ice is allowing phytoplankton blooms, made up of billions of microscopic plant organisms, to expand northwards into ice-free waters where they have never been seen before, scientists have discovered.
Research based on satellite images showing ocean colours reveals vast spring blooms of phytoplankton in the Arctic ocean where blooms were previously non-existent, which are expanding northwards at a rate of one degree of latitude per decade.
The team found overall primary production of the phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean, which has previously been low, increased by 31 per cent between 2003 and 2013.
As climate change impacts levels of sea ice, less cover will allow the trend to increase further.
Larger spring blooms mean phytoplankton will compete for light and nutrients with other species, hugely altering an ecosystem which has never been free of ice cover.
“If the ice pack totally disappears in summer, there will be consequences for the phytoplankton spring bloom,” said Sophie Renaut, a PhD student at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, and lead author of the study.
“We cannot exactly predict how it will evolve, but we’re pretty sure there are going to be drastic consequences for the entire ecosystem.”