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Keywords:

  • Arctic Ocean;
  • export;
  • nutrient supply;
  • sediment trap;
  • ice

Abstract

A critical question regarding the organic carbon cycle in the Arctic Ocean is whether the decline in ice extent and thickness and the associated increase in solar irradiance in the upper ocean will result in increased primary production and particulate organic carbon (POC) export. To assess spatial and temporal variability in POC export, under-ice export fluxes were measured with short-term sediment traps in the northern Laptev Sea in July-August-September 1995, north of the Fram Strait in July 1997, and in the Central Arctic in August–September 2012. Sediment traps were deployed at 2–5 m and 20–25 m under ice for periods ranging from 8.5 to 71 h. In addition to POC fluxes, total particulate matter, chlorophyll a, biogenic particulate silica, phytoplankton, and zooplankton fecal pellet fluxes were measured to evaluate the amount and composition of the material exported in the upper Arctic Ocean. Whereas elevated export fluxes observed on and near the Laptev Sea shelf were likely the combined result of high primary production, resuspension, and release of particulate matter from melting ice, low export fluxes above the central basins despite increased light availability during the record minimum ice extent of 2012 suggest that POC export was limited by nutrient supply during summer. These results suggest that the ongoing decline in ice cover affects export fluxes differently on Arctic shelves and over the deep Arctic Ocean and that POC export is likely to remain low above the central basins unless additional nutrients are supplied to surface waters.