Iceflux - Ice-ecosystem carbon flux in polar oceans

In both Polar Regions, areas covered by sea ice are shrinking due to climate warming. What are the consequences of sea ice decline in the Arctic and the Antarctic Ocean?

Answering this question is not only important, because sea ice provides a resting ground for penguins, seals and polar bears. Sea ice also hosts ice algae and a diversity of microbial life, which constitute an important basis of the food chains in polar ecosystems. Iceflux aims to estimate the contribution of biomatter produced by ice algae to polar food webs with a suite of innovative techniques. Such knowledge is essential to predict the impact of changing sea ice habitats on fish stocks and the biodiversity of polar ecosystems.

AWI biologist Hauke Flores, who leads the young investigators group Iceflux.
AWI biologist Hauke Flores (Photo: Steve Geelhoed)

Novel Surface and Under-Ice Trawl (SUIT)

The results of Iceflux can contribute to the development of sustainable approaches to fisheries management and nature conservation in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans under environmental change.

The research project investigates ice-covered deep-sea ecosystems in the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice zones. Iceflux focuses on organisms dwelling at the ice-underside, such as polar cod, Antarctic krill, and other crustaceans. These organisms are at a key position in channeling biomatter from ice algae into the marine food web. The under-ice community is sampled with the novel Surface and Under-Ice Trawl (SUIT), which was developed by the Dutch research institute IMARES. SUIT is equipped with an environmental sensor array, measuring key parameters of the sea ice sampled, such as ice thickness, ice structure, and ice algal abundance.

In a parallel approach, the importance of biomatter produced by ice algae in the food web will be investigated with molecular and isotopic biomarkers. Finally bio-environmental models will help projecting ecologically important sea ice properties on larger areas. Such projections can ultimately enable us to estimate the impact of declining sea ice areas on polar marine ecosystems in the future.

The Surface and Under-Ice Trawl (SUIT)

 

 

This video of our Dutch colleagues from the research centre IMARES shows how SUIT is used during a Polarstern expedition. The pictures were taken in late summer 2013 on a expedition in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Both the opening scenes as well as the underwater scenes were filmed with a GoPro camera, which has been attached to the steel frame of the trawl. Video: Jan van Franeker - IMARES