I. IntroductionPrimary production is essential for biological life to occur in aquatic ecosystems. These organisms create energy through photosynthesis. These autotrophs are found in the lowest level of the food webs. Primary production is what ties Arctic sea habitats together.
Since little plants are living under the sea, primary production relies on the microscopic organisms. Despite the size, autotrophs are able to harvest enough sunlight that turns into energy for themselves and other organisms. Primary producers get eaten by consumers who also are eaten by even larger consumers in order to obtain energy. Through photosynthesis, they are the base for many food webs in the Arctic sea. As the Arctic sea ice continues melting, primary producers are be affected by the temperature change, causing the links in the food web to change as well. With this ongoing problem, it could lead to trophic mismatches between primary producers and their fellow consumers.
II. Background Phytoplankton, microscopic creatures, are what make up majority primary production throughout the ocean. As stated above, they are able to obtain energy through the process of photosynthesis. Half the world’s autotrophs are these microscopic organisms. The photonic zone, the thin sunlight layer of the ocean, is where the photosynthesis occurs. However they are difficult to observe as they cannot be seen from the Arctic surface.
The cause for that is the chlorophyll that gives the phytoplankton their vibrant colors cannot penetrate through the intervening sea ice (Middleton 2017). Phytoplankton also need mineral nutrients in order for growth to take place. Most nutrients is lost to the lower levels of the sea due to gravitational sinking and are replenished by the mixing of deeper waters. As such, availability of needed factors is limited but crucial for primary production throughout the ocean.
Availability amount might adjust due to the climate, however there is the chance that unforeseen consequences can occur as well. As with any ecosystems that goes through adjustments, organisms learn must adapt in order to thrive in their ecosystem. How phytoplankton react plus adapt to the changing climate are topics that scientist have been doing studies on. Some microorganism could be just fine, and adapt to climate change quickly, while other types may not adjust well to the increase in temperature. Studies have shown that microorganisms adapting rapidly can lead to higher rates in photosynthesis – they can produce more energy, channel faster growth quota and better capacity for competition through other phytoplankton (Schaum 2017).
Because of that, climate change doesn’t seem to be as terrible as researchers say climate change is. Why is climate change considered as serious threat to aquatic environments? Even though some types of phytoplankton have been shown to be adaptable to the climate changes, scientist still do not know if it is the same for other types of aquatic microorganisms. III.
Ice-Algae Due to climate change the Arctic sea ice has been getting thinner for the past 30 years. This has opened up a new opportunity for researchers as Arctic algal blooms have been sighted at inhospitable regions where phytoplankton, as well as ice algae, for the past seven years since 2011. Just what are algal blooms? It is the algae population in big groups that are visible, mostly during early spring for ice algae. The timing and size of the bloom depends on the thickness of snow on the Arctic sea ice.
It also depends on how much sunlight penetrates through the sea ice. Normally ice-algae blooms are observed only in ice free waters. In 2011, however, an algal bloom was observed underneath the sea-ice covered region of the Chukchi Sea, which was thought to be uninhabitable for any phytoplankton. The discovery would lead to many observations about the ice-algal blooms. Research shows climate change in the ice is indeed affecting the time the ice-algal blooms occur. Ice algae communities are found near the bottom of the ice and are wide spread across the Arctic ocean.
They can also be found through columns of sea ice and within brine channels. When the summer sea ice melts, ice algae are released and sent to the freshing surface water. The ice algae are prone to aggregate because of their sticky trait, and soon follow sedimentation. Ice algae must rely on other means in order to stay close to their sea-ice habitat in order to bridge the gap between the melting summer ice and the freezing during autumn. This leads to the ice-fauna being deprived from their food resource, but recent study by Lee (as cited by Assmay, 2013) shows that the thinning ice could lead to new habitats in the sea ice.
Buoyant ice-algal aggregates have been observed, little is known about them. What is the ecological importance of ice-algal aggregates during the melting season? One theory suggests that ice-algal aggregates seed the next spring bloom, but this has not been considered. Most current models that show the ice-algal production and biomass do not take account of the aggregations. Therefore they are underestimated despite the contribution ice algae give to the Arctic ocean ecosystem through primary production.