Impact of a shrinking Arctic ice cover on marine primary production

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Abstract

[1] Loss of Arctic sea ice has accelerated recently, culminating in a 2007 summer minimum ice extent that was 23% below the previous low. To quantify the impact of this unprecedented loss of ice on marine primary production, we have coupled satellite-derived sea ice, SST, and chlorophyll to a primary production algorithm parameterized for Arctic waters. Annual primary production in the Arctic has increased yearly by an average of 27.5 Tg C yr−1 since 2003 and by 35 Tg C yr−1 between 2006 and 2007. 30% of this increase is attributable to decreased minimum summer ice extent and 70% to a longer phytoplankton growing season. Should these trends continue, additional loss of ice during Arctic spring could boost productivity >3-fold above 1998–2002 levels, potentially altering marine ecosystem structure and the degree of pelagic-benthic coupling. Changes in carbon export could in turn modify benthic denitrification on the vast continental shelves.

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