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Upper limits for chlorophyll a changes with brine volume in sea ice during the austral spring in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica


During the winter and spring of 2006, we investigated the sea ice physics and marine biology in the northwest Weddell Sea, Antarctica aboard R/V Polarstern. We determined the texture of each ice core and 71 ice crystal thin sections from 27 ice cores. We analyzed 393 ice cores, their temperatures, 348 block density and salinity samples, and 311 chlorophyll a (Chl a) and phaeophytin samples along the cruise route during the investigation. Based on the vertical distributions of 302 groups of data for the ice porosity and Chl a content in the ice at the same position, we obtained new evidence that ice physical parameters influence the Chl a content in ice. We collected snow and ice thickness data, and established the effects of the snow and ice thickness on the Chl a blooms under the ice, as well as the relationships between the activity of ice algae cells and the brine volume in ice according to the principle of environmental control of the ecological balance. We determined the upper limits for Chl a in the brine volume of granular and columnar ice in the Antarctica, thereby demonstrating the effects of ice crystals on brine drainage, and the contributions of the physical properties of sea ice to Chl a blooms near the ice bottom and on the ice-water interface in the austral spring. Moreover, we found that the physical properties of sea ice affect ice algae and they are key control elements that modulate marine phytoplankton blooms in the ice-covered waters around Antarctica.

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Author information

Correspondence to Zhijun Li.

Additional information

Foundation item: The National Natural Science Foundation of China under contract Nos 51221961 and 41376186; Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration for expedition and external cooperation foundations under contract No. IC201209; the foundation of State Key Laboratory of Coastal and Offshore Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, China under contract No. SL14-5-3.

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Li, Z., Li, R., Wang, Z. et al. Upper limits for chlorophyll a changes with brine volume in sea ice during the austral spring in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Acta Oceanol. Sin. 35, 68–75 (2016).

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Key words

  • Antarctic
  • brine volume
  • chlorophyll a
  • ice crystal
  • mode
  • sea ice