Marine Systems

Current research projects (2019-2024)

Marine primary production in a changing Arctic Ocean

Climate change is altering the Arctic atmosphere, cryosphere, and ocean and is having a significant impact on marine primary production. Satellite observations of phytoplankton primary production over the past 20 years show a steady increase due to increased light availability and nutrient input to Arctic surface waters. Although there is consensus that climate change is having profound impacts on the Arctic marine ecosystem, controversy still exists regarding the future of Arctic primary production: will it continue to increase as the sea ice melts further, or will nutrient availability limit further production? One component of Arctic marine primary production that has received little attention is benthic primary production. Located on the seabed surface, benthic primary producers such as diatoms and macroalgae receive a steady supply of nutrients from underlying sediments. When sufficient sunlight is available, benthic producers can dominate marine primary production in shallow Arctic waters. Given that shallow shelves occupy about half of the Arctic Ocean, benthic production may be a particularly important for the Arctic marine ecosystem, but this remains poorly understood. With an expanding ice-free Arctic in summer, these new and potentially increasing nutritious carbon sources could have a significant impact on marine ecosystems and fisheries resources of Northern communities. By bringing together research groups in Canada and Denmark, a unique set of scientific capabilities and datasets (field/satellite) will provide the first comprehensive picture of Arctic marine primary production, informing contemporary and future scenarios of a changing Arctic Ocean.