A mesocosm study of physical-biological interactions in artificial sea ice: Effects of brine channel surface evolution and brine movement on algal biomass

C Krembs, T Mock, R Gradinger

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The impact of changing physico-chemical boundary conditions in sea ice on biological processes was investigated during a 20-day-long simulated freeze-melt cycle in an 180-m3 mesocosm filled with artificial seawater and addition of a mixed Arctic sea-ice community. Ice formation started at Tair of -15°C with a growth rate of 0.7-1.2 mm h-1 for 10 days. The last 10 days (Tair of = -5°C), ice thickness remained around 20 cm. Ice temperature gradients inside the ice were linear and determined brine salinities. Brine was collected by means of centrifugation and its volume ranged from 5 to 30% of total ice volume. Surface areas of interconnected brine channels were determined with two similar techniques and maximum values ranged between 1.5 and 4.8 m2 kg-1 ice. Measurements determined with a modified method varied considerably and differed by a maximal factor of 2.0-6.5. Brine channel surfaces increased during the experiment as a result of the warming of the ice. The inoculated algal community was dominated by flagellates < 10 µm. The low diatom biomass increased in the ice after the air temperature rise with rates comparable to field data (µ=0.2-0.3 day-1). Comparison with brine salinities points towards the hypothesis of vertical brine stability being a controlling factor for ice algal growth. We infer from brine channel surface measurements that persistence of brine channel surfaces during spring might be an important prerequisite for the commencement of net diatom biomass accumulation. Advantages and limitations of mesoscale mesocosms as alternatives in ice biological work are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-364
Number of pages9
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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