Polar Biology

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 239–248 | Cite as

Aggregation of algae released from melting sea ice: implications for seeding and sedimentation

  • U. Riebesell
  • I. Schloss
  • V. Smetacek


Factors influencing the fate of ice algae released from melting sea ice were studied during a R V Polarstern cruise (EPOS Leg 2) to the northwestern Weddell Sea. The large-scale phytoplankton distribution patterns across the receding ice edge and small-scale profiling of the water column adjacent to melting ice floes indicated marked patchiness on both scales. The contribution of typical ice algae to the phytoplankton was not significant. In experiments simulating the conditions during sea ice melting, ice algae revealed a strong propensity to form aggregates. Differences in the aggregation potential were found for algal assemblages collected from the ice interior and the infiltration layer. Although all algal species collected from the ice were also found in aggregates, the species composition of dispersed and aggregated algae differed significantly. Aggregates were of a characteristic structure consisting of monospecific microaggregates which are likely to have formed in the minute brine pockets and channels within the ice. Sinking rates of aggregates were three orders of magnitude higher than those of dispersed ice algae. These observations, combined with the negligible seeding effect of ice algae found during this study, suggest that ice algae released from the melting sea ice are subject to rapid sedimentation. High grazing pressure at the ice edge of the investigation area is another factor eliminating ice algae released during melting.


Phytoplankton Algal Assemblage High Grazing Pressure Phytoplankton Distribution Seeding Effect 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • U. Riebesell
    • 1
  • I. Schloss
    • 2
    • 3
  • V. Smetacek
    • 1
  1. 1.Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und MeeresforschungBremerhavenGermany
  2. 2.Instituto Antártico ArgentinoBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.CONICETArgentina

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