Polar Biology

, Volume 34, Issue 12, pp 1803–1817 | Cite as

Protist assemblages in winter sea ice: setting the stage for the spring ice algal bloom

  • Andrea NiemiEmail author
  • Christine Michel
  • Kelly Hille
  • Michel Poulin
Original Paper


This study documents, for the first time, the abundance and species composition of protist assemblages in Arctic sea ice during the dark winter period. Lack of knowledge of sea-ice assemblages during the dark period has left questions about the retention and survival of protist species that initiate the ice algal bloom. Sea-ice and surface water samples were collected between December 27, 2007 and January 31, 2008 within the Cape Bathurst flaw lead, Canadian Beaufort Sea. Samples were analyzed for protist identification and counts, chlorophyll (chl) a, and total particulate carbon and nitrogen concentrations. Sea-ice chl a concentrations (max. 0.27 μg l−1) and total protist abundances (max. 4 × 103 cells l−1) were very low, indicating minimal retention of protists in the ice during winter. The diversity of winter ice protists (134 taxa) was comparable to spring ice assemblages. Pennate diatoms dominated the winter protist assemblage numerically (averaging 77% of total protist abundances), with Nitzschia frigida being the most abundant species. Only 56 taxa were identified in surface waters, where dinoflagellates were the dominant group. Our results indicate that differences in the timing of ice formation may have a greater impact on the abundance than structure of protist assemblages present in winter sea ice and at the onset of the spring ice algal bloom.


Arctic Flaw lead Diversity Winter Ice algae Taxonomy Dark period 



We sincerely thank the officers and crew of the CCGS Amundsen for their support of this research and G. Niemi for assistance in the field and laboratory during the expedition. The support of the chief scientists and other participants of CFL leg 5 is greatly appreciated. We also thank H. Kuosa, R. Horner and one anonymous reviewer for constructive comments that helped improve the manuscript. Yves Gagnon, Institut Maurice-Lamontagne, conducted the PC and PN analyses and Tim Papakyriakou and Bruce Johnson provided the PAR data. This research was made possible by grants from the Canadian International Polar Year Federal Program, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada IPY Funds and Discovery Grant to C.M., Canadian Museum of Nature and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. This is a contribution to the research programs of the Circumpolar Flaw Lead (CFL) system study and the Freshwater Institute (Fisheries and Oceans Canada).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Niemi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christine Michel
    • 1
  • Kelly Hille
    • 1
  • Michel Poulin
    • 2
  1. 1.Fisheries and Oceans CanadaFreshwater InstituteWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Research DivisionCanadian Museum of NatureOttawaCanada

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