Marine Biology

, Volume 133, Issue 4, pp 745-754

First online:

Vertical fine structure of the biomass and composition of algal communities in Arctic pack ice

  • R. GradingerAffiliated withInstitute for Polar Ecology Kiel, Christian Albrechts University Kiel, Wischhofstr. 1-3, Geb. 12, D-24148 Kiel, Germany e-mail:

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The biomass and composition of algal communities in sea ice were studied during two summer expeditions to the central Arctic Ocean and the Greenland Sea. Based on algal pigment determination and cell counts, high biomass accumulations were found at the surface, in the interior and in the bottom layer of the ice floes. Pennate diatoms dominated in the bottom layer, while phototrophic flagellates and cysts of unknown origin were the most abundant taxa in the upper parts. The lowermost 20 to 40 cm contained between 4 and 62% of the entire algal biomass. Consequently, ice biological studies, which deal only with the bottom few centimetres of the ice floes, will underestimate algal biomass and production by factors of up to 25. Differences between the results of this study and published data from coastal locations point towards different biological regimes in Arctic sea ice. The algal biomass in coastal ice is about two orders of magnitude higher and composed mainly of diatoms, probably supported by nutrient influx from the water column. In the pack ice of the central Arctic, nutrient supply is probably reduced, and flagellates contribute substantially to total algal biomass. However, methodological problems might partially be responsible for the observed differences.