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Food web

Ice algae: The engine of life in the central Arctic Ocean

Algae that live in and under the sea ice also serve as a nutritional basis for animals living at great depths

[12. July 2016] 

Algae that live in and under the sea ice play a much greater role for the Arctic food web than previously assumed. In a new study, biologists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research showed that not only animals that live directly under the ice thrive on carbon produced by so-called ice algae. Even species that mostly live at greater depth depend to a large extent on carbon from these algae. This also means that the decline of the Arctic sea ice may have far-reaching consequences for the entire food web of the Arctic Ocean. Their results have been published online now in the journal Limnology & Oceanography.


In times of great famine, microalgae digest themselves

AWI researchers decipher the connection between nutrient availability and algae growth

[30. June 2016] 

In a recent study, scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have determined the molecular mechanisms which microalgae apply in order to switch from rapid cell division to growth-arrest during times of acute nutrient deficiency. In laboratory experiments, the scientists have been able to observe that calcifying microalgae in a state of nutrient deficiency initially tweak their metabolism to be more economic and efficient before, out of necessity, they even partially digest themselves.

Nature study on ocean floor formation

Plate tectonics without jerking

AWI researchers are for the first time making detailed recordings of earthquakes on ultraslow mid-ocean ridges

[29. June 2016] 

The earthquake distribution on ultraslow mid-ocean ridges differs fundamentally from other spreading zones. Water circulating at a depth of up to 15 kilometres leads to the formation of rock that resembles soft soap. This is how the continental plates on ultraslow mid-ocean ridges may move without jerking, while the same process in other regions leads to many minor earthquakes, according to geophysicists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). Their study is going to be published advanced online in the journal Nature on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

Climate change

Intensification and poleward shift of oceanic boundary currents

Change means greater heat and more winter storms for Asia; Gulf Stream is the exception

[28. June 2016] 

Global warming results in fundamental changes to important ocean currents. As scientists from the Alfred-Wegener-Institute show in a new study, wind-driven subtropical boundary currents in the northern and southern hemisphere are not only going to increase in strength by the end of this century. The Kuroshio Current, the Agulhas Current and other oceanic currents are shifting their paths towards the pole and thus carry higher temperatures and thus the risk of storms to temperate latitudes. For this study, researchers evaluated a wealth of independent observational data and climate simulations. They showed the same pattern for all boundary currents, with the Gulf Stream as the only exception. According to the data, the latter will weaken over the next decades. The study...

Climate and Vegetation

Siberian larch forests are still linked to the ice age

A new AWI study shows that the flora of the Northern Russian permafrost lags behind the climate often by several thousand years

[24. June 2016] 

The Siberian permafrost regions include those areas of the Earth, which heat up very quickly in the course of climate change. Nevertheless, biologists are currently observing only a minimal response in forest composition. In the places where, when considering the air temperature, pine and spruce forests should be growing, Siberian larch trees are still thriving. The cause of this paradox has been tracked using million-year-old bee pollen by scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute, the University of Cologne, and international partner institutions.