, Volume 174, Issue 3, pp 699–712 | Cite as

Fatty acid and stable isotope characteristics of sea ice and pelagic particulate organic matter in the Bering Sea: tools for estimating sea ice algal contribution to Arctic food web production

  • Shiway W. Wang
  • Suzanne M. Budge
  • Rolf R. Gradinger
  • Katrin Iken
  • Matthew J. Wooller
Physiological ecology - Original research


We determined fatty acid (FA) profiles and carbon stable isotopic composition of individual FAs (δ13CFA values) from sea ice particulate organic matter (i-POM) and pelagic POM (p-POM) in the Bering Sea during maximum ice extent, ice melt, and ice-free conditions in 2010. Based on FA biomarkers, differences in relative composition of diatoms, dinoflagellates, and bacteria were inferred for i-POM versus p-POM and for seasonal succession stages in p-POM. Proportions of diatom markers were higher in i-POM (16:4n-1, 6.6–8.7 %; 20:5n-3, 19.6–25.9 %) than in p-POM (16:4n-1, 1.2–4.0 %; 20:5n-3, 5.5–14.0 %). The dinoflagellate marker 22:6n-3/20:5n-3 was highest in p-POM. Bacterial FA concentration was higher in the bottom 1 cm of sea ice (14–245 μg L−1) than in the water column (0.6–1.7 μg L−1). Many i-POM δ13CFA values were higher (up to ~10 ‰) than those of p-POM, and i-POM δ13CFA values increased with day length. The higher i-POM δ13CFA values are most likely related to the reduced dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) availability within the semi-closed sea ice brine channel system. Based on a modified Rayleigh equation, the fraction of sea ice DIC fixed in i-POM ranged from 12 to 73 %, implying that carbon was not limiting for primary productivity in the sympagic habitat. These differences in FA composition and δ13CFA values between i-POM and p-POM will aid efforts to track the proportional contribution of sea ice algal carbon to higher trophic levels in the Bering Sea and likely other Arctic seas.


Compound-specific carbon stable isotope Biomarkers Trophic studies Marine phytoplankton Arctic 



This project was funded by the National Science Foundation (ARC-0902177 and 0732767). Financial support for S. Wang was also provided by the North Pacific Research Board Graduate Research Award, the University of Alaska Center (UAF) for Global Change Student Research Grant with funds from the Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research, Robert Byrd Award, Dieter Family Marine Science Research Scholarship, and the Ken Turner Memorial Fellowship. We thank J. Weems and S. Brennan (UAF) for assisting with sample collections and A. Timmins (Dalhousie) for laboratory assistance. We also thank T. Howe, N. Haubenstock, C. Graham from the ASIF-UAF for laboratory assistance with stable isotope analyses. We are grateful for the excellent assistance of the crew and captains of the USCGC Polarsea and the UNOLS vessel Thomas G. Thompson, and chief scientists L. Cooper (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science), C. Ashjian (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), and D. Shull (Western Washington University). We also thank E. Lessard (University of Washington) for assistance with phytoplankton identifications. Sea ice concentration data were sourced from the model explorer provided by the Alaska Ocean Observing System. Finally, we thank D. O’Brien, L. Horstmann-Dehn, A. Springer, and L. Oxtoby for helpful discussions and comments, and three anonymous reviewers for their detailed and constructive comments which improved our manuscript.

Supplementary material

442_2013_2832_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (123 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 122 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shiway W. Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Suzanne M. Budge
    • 3
  • Rolf R. Gradinger
    • 1
  • Katrin Iken
    • 1
  • Matthew J. Wooller
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Institute of Marine ScienceUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.Alaska Stable Isotope Facility, Water and Environmental Research Center, Institute of Northern EngineeringUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  3. 3.Department of Process Engineering and Applied ScienceDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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