Colonization of newly forming Arctic sea ice by meiofauna: a case study for the future Arctic?
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Global warming has led to a strong deterioration of the Arctic sea ice cover. Ice thickness, age and coverage have been strongly declining in recent years. Brine channels that form in sea ice when seawater freezes represent a unique habitat for bacteria, algae, proto- and small metazoans. We hypothesized that the loss of multi-year ice and the more prevalent formation of first-year ice even in central regions of the Arctic will lead to changes in the Arctic sea ice meiofauna community composition. We therefore analysed the sea ice meiofauna community composition of three different ice types sampled in summer and autumn 2007. Young, thin ice of few cm thickness was typified by taxa of pelagic origin or with good swimming abilities (ciliates, pelagic foraminifera, rotifers and platyhelminthes). Harpacticoid copepods and nematodes with poor swimming abilities were prevalent in older, thicker (>0.5 m) first- and multi-year ice. Brash ice—which was likely a mix of older broken ice, slush and pancake ice—was characterized by a high abundance of platyhelminthes and rotifers. An experimental analysis of colonization efficiencies of artificial thin ice also revealed that species with poor swimming ability are less successful to colonize newly forming thin ice. We conclude that observed and predicted changes in the ice formation regime will likely result in changes in the composition of Arctic sea ice communities. We predict negative effects particularly for species with low dispersal capacities like harpacticoid copepods and endemic nematodes, as these are less successful in colonizing newly forming thin ice.
KeywordsSea ice community Meiofauna Arctic ice fauna Colonization Succession Global warming ARK XXII/2
Thanks are first of all due to Iris Werner (Institute for Polar Ecology, Kiel, Germany) for her support during all phases of this study. We are grateful to the captain and the crew of R.V. Polarstern and the chief scientist U. Schauer (Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany) for constant support during ARK XXII/2. Thanks are also due to the reviewers who helped to improve the manuscript. The help of many colleagues, in particular A. Schneider (Institute for Polar Ecology, Kiel) and S. Siebert (University of California, Davis, USA), during the ice and laboratory work is gratefully acknowledged. Parts of this study were funded by a grant of the German Science Foundation (WE 2536/11–1,–2.). Most of the work presented here was organized with support and conducted at the former Institute for Polar Ecology, Kiel, Germany. Rainer Kiko, Henrike Mütze and Maike Kramer conducted their PhD theses at the Institute for Polar Ecology and would like to thank all colleagues for their support.
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