Monday, August 16, 2010

Here's an angle you might not have seen before:

Suppose Arctic sea ice melts. What does that mean?

Among many other things, it means that more sunlight will penetrate into the water. What does that mean?

According to a new paper in Marine Ecology Progress Series, it means that sea ice algae become less nutritious.

"Increased irradiance reduces food quality of sea ice algae," E. Leu1 et al, Marine Ecology Progress Series, Vol. 411: 49–60, 2010, doi: 10.3354/meps08647.

The nutritional value of sea ice algae is related to their content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which also matter for reproductive reasons. These researchers followed sea ice algae for a complete reproductive cycle and found that light conditions "proved to be decisive in determining the nutritional quality of sea ice algae, and irradiance was negatively correlated with the relative amount of PUFAs. Algal PUFA content decreased on average by 40% from April to June, while algal biomass (measured as particulate carbon, C) did not differ."

I suspect we are going to be learning about a lot of these types of nonobvious chains of consequence in this decade....

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