Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Micro-gels from tiny ice algae play an important role in polar ocean carbon budgets

Date:
September 10, 2013
Source:
Aarhus University
Summary:
Secretion of polysaccharides from the micro community living within the sea ice stick organism together and forms greater particles introducing a rapid transport of carbon to the seafloor. New research now makes it possible to forecast the importance for the global carbon budget of this transport.

The ice algae secrete gel-like substances in response to environmental stress. New research show that this micro-gel play an important role in polar ocean carbon budgets.
Credit: Image courtesy of Aarhus University

Secretion of polysaccharides from the micro community living within the sea ice stick organism together and forms greater particles introducing a rapid transport of carbon to the seafloor. New research now makes it possible to forecast the importance for the global carbon budget of this transport.

A community of microscopic algae and bacteria thrives within the Arctic and Antarctic pack ice. These ice-organisms are adapted to growing on the ice crystal surfaces and within a labyrinth of channels and pores that permeate the ice floes.

It is a hostile place to grow with temperatures often at -10C to -20C, low light and within six or seven times more salty brines in the ice channels compared to the underlying seawater from where these organisms originate.

Many marine organisms secrete gel-like substances in response to environmental stress, and these ice-dwellers are no exception. In fact they secrete large quantities of gels that are made up from various types of polysaccharides.

A new study released in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, now demonstrate that these gels from ice-microorganisms are important in both the Arctic and Antarctic. It is likely that they will not only affect the physical structure within the ice but also how carbon travels to the ocean floor and even the weather.

Sticky masses

The gels promote the clumping together of cells when they are released from the ice when it melts. These sticky masses fall more rapidly to the sea floor, taking carbon (and food) out of the surfaces waters.

There is also evidence that micro-gels at the ocean surface may get caught up into the air and eventually act as cloud condensing nuclei thereby affecting weather. The gels therefore have profound implications for both the long-term burial of carbon to the ocean floor and thus the global carbon budget and on the weather.

Since 2006 Professor Graham Underwood & Dr Shazia Aslam from University of Essex and Professor David Thomas from Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University have led several projects (funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, UK) to study the production of micro-gels, and their widespread importance to the frozen realms of the worlds oceans. They teamed up with colleagues from Australia and Canada to collect and analyse ice cores from both the Arctic and Antarctic.

Seven years on, and many frozen trips later, they now publish a rather surprising finding. Analysing ice data spanning ice from both the Arctic and Antarctic, they are now able to determine the amounts of gel production from the ice microbes based on data of the physical nature of the ice and the amount of microbiology.

"It means that we can estimate the concentration of gels in ice, by knowing rather routine measurements such as the thickness of the ice floes, temperature and salinity of the ice and the quantity of ice biology measured as the chlorophyll content of the ice," says Professor David Thomas, Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University.

"This is a huge step forwards to enable us to estimate the significance of these materials to the millions of square kilometres of Antarctic and Arctic pack ice," says Thomas.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Aarhus University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. J. C. Underwood, S. N. Aslam, C. Michel, A. Niemi, L. Norman, K. M. Meiners, J. Laybourn-Parry, H. Paterson, D. N. Thomas. Broad-scale predictability of carbohydrates and exopolymers in Antarctic and Arctic sea ice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1302870110

Cite This Page:

Aarhus University. "Micro-gels from tiny ice algae play an important role in polar ocean carbon budgets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910104958.htm>.
Aarhus University. (2013, September 10). Micro-gels from tiny ice algae play an important role in polar ocean carbon budgets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910104958.htm
Aarhus University. "Micro-gels from tiny ice algae play an important role in polar ocean carbon budgets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910104958.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins