The Impact of Changes in Sea Ice Extent on Primary Production, Phytoplankton Community Structure, and Export in the Eastern Bering Sea
Basic Project Information
Funds are provided to test the following core hypothesis: climate-driven interannual variability in sea-ice extent and duration shifts the eastern Bering Sea autotrophic community between one of two states; marginal ice-zone (MIZ) blooms vs. open-water blooms. The MIZ bloom state is characterized by high biomass, diatom-dominated blooms, high pelagic export and tight pelagic-benthic coupling, whereas the open-water bloom state is characterized by lower biomass, flagellate blooms, low pelagic export, and reduced pelagic-benthic coupling. This project will generate measurements of primary production using traditional 14C, 13C methods, and use the innovative triple oxygen isotope technique and dissolved oxygen concentrations to estimate gross and net primary production, respectively. This combination of productivity measurements will be used to test the hypothesis that while gross primary production does not change with sea-ice extent, net production does, and is inversely related to sea-ice extent.
Phytoplankton community structure measurements will allow the PIs to test their hypothesis that the autotrophic community switches from a diatom-dominated, high export system in the MIZ, to a flagellate-dominated, lower export, system in open water blooms.
This project is part of a larger program designed to develop understanding of the integrated ecosystem of the eastern Bering Sea shelf, a highly productive region of US coastal waters. This ecosystem is home to a major portion of the commercial fisheries of the US and also provides significant resources to subsistence hunters and fisherman of Alaska. Characterization of rates of primary production by phytoplankton and the varying structure of the phytoplankton community in response to changing sea ice conditions will provide information about changes at the base of the food chain that will constrain models of the ecosystem. This information will be essential to a successful integrated ecosystem modeling protocol for the region.