Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Algae and bacteria in sea ice are important for the carbon budgets of frozen oceans

Date:
September 13, 2013
Source:
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
Summary:
Underneath the pristine snow cover of the Arctic and Antarctic pack ice, there is a community of microscopic algae and bacteria that thrive within the ice itself. These ice-organisms are adapted to growing on the ice surfaces and within a labyrinth of channels and pores that permeate the ice floes. Their presence may affect how carbon travels to the ocean floor and even the weather.

Ice research on the Antarctic waters.
Credit: Image: David N. Thomas

Underneath the pristine snow cover of the Arctic and Antarctic pack ice, there is a community of microscopic algae and bacteria that thrive within the ice itself. These ice-organisms are adapted to growing on the ice surfaces and within a labyrinth of channels and pores that permeate the ice floes.

It is a hostile place to grow with temperatures often below -10C (reaching down to -20C), low light and often very salty brines, six or seven times more salty that the seawater from where these organisms originate. Many marine organisms secrete gel-like substances in response to environmental stress, and it appears that these ice-dwellers are no exception. In fact they secrete large quantities of the gels that are made up from various types of polysaccharides. It has been discovered that these gels affect far more than the micro organisms they surround. Their presence may affect how carbon travels to the ocean floor and even the weather.

“The gels surround the cells, buffering them against extremes of temperature and salt. There is also evidence that the gels, or substances in the gels, may also alter the ice crystal formation, and so the structure of the ice itself” says David Thomas.

Since 2006 Professor Graham Underwood & Dr Shazia Aslam from the University of Essex and Professor David Thomas an Academy of Finland FiDiPro Research Professor at SYKE have led several projects (funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, U.K.) 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 are publishing a rather surprising finding – They, and their co-workers found that there is a strong relationship - spanning ice from both the Arctic and Antarctic - between the physical nature of the ice, the amount of microbiology it contains and the concentrations of gels.

“It now means that we can estimate the concentration of gels in ice, by knowing rather routine measurements: the thickness of the ice floes, temperature and salinity of the ice and the amount of biology in the ice” says Thomas.

“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.”

Why this is important? The gels also 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 food (and carbon) 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.

So gels produced to protect algae and bacteria in the ice, may have profound implications for the long-term burial of carbon to the ocean floor and even the weather. Over and above these issues the gels will be influencing the nature and structure of the ice itself.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). 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:

Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). "Algae and bacteria in sea ice are important for the carbon budgets of frozen oceans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913085702.htm>.
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). (2013, September 13). Algae and bacteria in sea ice are important for the carbon budgets of frozen oceans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913085702.htm
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). "Algae and bacteria in sea ice are important for the carbon budgets of frozen oceans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913085702.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) 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