Sea Ice Biogeochemistry: A Guide for Modellers

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Date: Feb. 25, 2014
From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 9, Issue 2)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Article
Length: 9,533 words
Lexile Measure: 1580L

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Author(s): Letizia Tedesco 1,*, Marcello Vichi 2,3


Sea ice plays a key role in the climate system [1], mainly due to the albedo positive feedback [2] and to the amplified climate changes undergoing in sea ice-covered regions [3]. In parallel, the ice-associated (sympagic) biology has a key role in winter ecology of ice-covered waters [4]. During winter months sea ice algae are essential to overwintering zooplankton, being the only food source available [5]. Most of the regions seasonally covered by sea ice are the most productive of the oceans, with a shorter production season but more intense algal blooms (e.g. [6]). The highest algal cell and chlorophyll (Chl) concentrations of any aquatic environment has been found in sea ice [7]. Besides the qualitative and quantitative relevance of sea ice algae, recent works have highlighted the importance of sea ice for e.g. dimethyl sulfide production [8], source/sink of CO2 [9], bioaccumulation of iron [10], and enhanced CaCO3 precipitation [11]. Indirectly, the presence of sea ice also affects the pelagic dynamics: under-ice phytoplankton blooms can be massive when compared to adjacent open water areas [12].

While biogeochemical models of the pelagic ecosystem are commonly developed in the Arctic Ocen [13] and in the Southern Ocean [14], and more recently used to assess potential changes in the ecosystem dynamics under future climate change scenarios [15], the same cannot be said of sea ice biogeochemical models, mostly excluded in large-scale studies except in rare cases [16]-[19]. Ignoring to include the sea ice biogeochemical component in modelling studies of polar oceans implies neglecting the quantitative and qualitative importance that we currently know sea ice biogeochemistry holds.

Sea ice has been long time considered an impermeable layer between the ocean and the atmosphere, and a rather thin layer when compared with the depths of the oceans. More recently the biogeochemical importance of sea ice in global biogeochemical cycles has been reviewed [20] and large scale Chl data collection has been organized in the Southern Ocean [21], showing the large spatial and temporal patchiness of the observations. Sea ice sampling presents several difficulties: weather conditions often limit data collection, while sampling methods are either time consuming and/or expensive. Comprehensive modelling studies may thus be the most suitable method to integrate among sparse observations, contributing to the understanding of the role that sea ice biogeochemistry plays in the past, present and future state of the polar oceans ([20]-[24]).

A major aim of this paper is to formulate a theoretical background for the construction of applicative models of sea ice ecosystems. The presented conceptual study stems from a previous application that was thoroughly tested against observations [25]. The model used in [25] demonstrated to satisfactorily capture the specific environmental features of a typical Arctic site in the Greenland Sea as well as the more variable conditions in a Baltic Sea location. By distilling from this previously validated model the theoretical relationships of the dependence on external forcing functions, we aim at making more evident the major factors...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A478792727