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Algal antifreeze makes inroads into ice
Date:3/3/2011

r, however, they form filaments that are meters long. Under-ice divers witness great forests of the algae hanging underwater from the sea ice each spring, Deming says.

Once considered minor contributors to the food web, sea-ice algae are gaining respect, Deming says. They bloom first in the spring and are responsible for nearly 60 percent of the primary production in ice-covered water at that time of year. As ice melts, creating open water, other microorganisms come to dominate primary production but Melosira arctica and brethren get credit for kick-starting the growing season.

Faced with a warming world, some scientists speculate that the importance of sea-ice algae, even in the spring, will diminish.

That may not be the case according to the new findings. In lab work, for instance, Deming and her co-authors found mucus from ice algae increased ice salinity by up to 59 percent and increased the number and complexity of channels. That means more places in the ice for algae to live where they can receive sunlight and avoid being eaten. The channels also retain more iron, nutrients and carbon dioxide needed for algal growth.

"Sea-ice primary productivity is expected to increase in a warming climate until the nutrient supply from below becomes limiting," the PNAS paper says. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation.


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Contact: Sandra Hines
shines@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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