Environmental factors influencing the seasonal dynamics of spring algal blooms in and beneath sea ice in western Baffin Bay

Abstract : Arctic sea ice is experiencing a shorter growth season and an earlier ice melt onset. The significance of spring microalgal blooms taking place prior to sea ice breakup is the subject of ongoing scientific debate. During the Green Edge project, unique time-series data were collected during two field campaigns held in spring 2015 and 2016, which documented for the first time the concomitant temporal evolution of the sea ice algal and phytoplankton blooms in and beneath the landfast sea ice in western Baffin Bay. Sea ice algal and phytoplankton blooms were negatively correlated and respectively reached 26 (6) and 152 (182) mg of chlorophyll a per m2 in 2015 (2016). Here, we describe and compare the seasonal evolutions of a wide variety of physical forcings, particularly key components of the atmosphere–snow–ice–ocean system, that influenced microalgal growth during both years. Ice algal growth was observed under low-light conditions before the snow melt period and was much higher in 2015 due to less snowfall. By increasing light availability and water column stratification, the snow melt onset marked the initiation of the phytoplankton bloom and, concomitantly, the termination of the ice algal bloom. This study therefore underlines the major role of snow on the seasonal dynamics of microalgae in western Baffin Bay. The under-ice water column was dominated by Arctic Waters. Just before the sea ice broke up, phytoplankton had consumed most of the nutrients in the surface layer. A subsurface chlorophyll maximum appeared and deepened, favored by spring tide-induced mixing, reaching the best compromise between light and nutrient availability. This deepening evidenced the importance of upper ocean tidal dynamics for shaping vertical development of the under-ice phytoplankton bloom, a major biological event along the western coast of Baffin Bay, which reached similar magnitude to the offshore ice-edge bloom.
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Laurent Oziel, P. Massicotte, A. Randelhoff, J. Ferland, Anda Vladoiu, et al.. Environmental factors influencing the seasonal dynamics of spring algal blooms in and beneath sea ice in western Baffin Bay. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, University of California Press, 2019, 7 (1), pp.34. ⟨10.1525/elementa.372⟩. ⟨hal-02286666⟩

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