In the Arctic, a clear temperature trend toward warming has been observed during the last two decades. The warming has led to a reduction in the area and thickness of the Arctic sea ice cover because of increased melting. Melt water is accumulated within the 0- to 30-m surface layer, markedly changing its hydrological and hydrochemical characteristics: this water is warmer and fresher, with lower nutrient concentrations. A stable thermocline at depths of 30–35 m weakens vertical mixing of water and hampers active exchange between nutrient-enriched water lying below the thermocline and nutrient-poor water under ice. This affects the qualitative and quantitative composition of upper-ocean phyto- and zooplankton. The changes in the climate and the ice environment cause marked alterations in the composition and structure of the biological communities of sea ice and under-ice surface water. Comparative analysis of materials collected in the anticyclonic Arctic Gyre at the ice stations Severnyi Polyus-22 (1975– 1981) and SHEBA (1997–1998) shows that over the last two decades the number of species of ice diatoms markedly decreased and the role of freshwater algae increased. The number of nematodes, copepods, amphipods, and turbellarians, which were the dominant groups in perennial ice, also declined sharply. The results suggest that the sea ice-upper ocean ecosystem is changing from typically marine to brackish-water. The main reason for these changes is probably global warming in the Arctic.
Russian Journal of Marine Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 18, 2006
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