Modeling the impact of declining sea ice on the Arctic marine planktonic ecosystem

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Abstract

[1] We have developed a coupled 3-D pan-Arctic biology/sea ice/ocean model to investigate the impact of declining Arctic sea ice on the marine planktonic ecosystem over 1988–2007. The biophysical model results agree with satellite observations of a generally downward trend in summer sea ice extent during 1988–2007, resulting in an increase in the simulated photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) at the ocean surface and marine primary productivity (PP) in the upper 100 m over open water areas of the Arctic Ocean. The simulated Arctic sea ice thickness has decreased steadily during 1988–2007, leading to an increase in PAR and PP in sea ice-covered areas. The simulated total PAR in all areas of the Arctic Ocean has increased by 43%, from 146 TW in 1988 to 209 TW in 2007; the corresponding total PP has increased by 50%, from 456 Tg C yr−1 in 1988 to 682 Tg C yr−1 in 2007. The simulated PAR and PP increases mainly occur in the seasonally and permanently ice-covered Arctic Ocean. In addition to increasing PAR, the decline in sea ice tends to increase the nutrient availability in the euphotic zone by enhancing air-sea momentum transfer, leading to strengthened upwelling and mixing in the water column and therefore increased nutrient input into the upper ocean layers from below. The increasing nutrient availability also contributes to the increase in the simulated PP, even though significant surface nutrient drawdown in summer is simulated. In conjunction with increasing surface absorption of solar radiation and rising surface air temperature, the increasing surface water temperature in the Arctic Ocean peripheral seas further contributes to the increase in PP. As PP has increased, so has the simulated biomass of phytoplankton and zooplankton.

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