NASA Scientists have made a biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters as dramatic and unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. A NASA-sponsored expedition punched through three-foot thick sea ice to find waters richer in phtoplanktons, essential to all sea life, than any other ocean region on Earth.It was made during a NASA oceanographic expedition in the summers of 2010 and 2011.
The expedition called ICESCAPE, or Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment, explored Arctic waters in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas along Alaska’s western and northern coasts onboard a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker. Using optical technologies, scientists looked at the impacts of environmental variability and change in the Arctic on the ocean biology, ecology and biogeochemistry.
Phytoplankton were thought to grow in the Arctic Ocean only after sea ice had retreated for the summer. Scientists now think that the thinning Arctic ice is allowing sunlight to reach the waters under the sea ice, catalyzing the plant blooms where they had never been observed. The findings were published in the journal Science.
Fast-growing phytoplankton consume large amounts of carbon dioxide. The study concludes that scientists will have to reassess the amount of carbon dioxide entering the Arctic Ocean through biological activity if the under-ice blooms turn out to be common.
The discovery of these previously unknown under-ice blooms also has implications for the broader Arctic ecosystem, including migratory species such as whales and birds. Phytoplankton are eaten by small ocean animals, which are eaten by larger fish and ocean animals. A change in the timeline of the blooms can cause disruptions for larger animals that feed either on phytoplankton or on the creatures that eat these microorganisms.
Read More at Source :NASA
- NASA New Discovery: ICESCAPE Expedition Uncovers ‘Rainforest’ In Arctic Ocean [Video] (inquisitr.com)
- NASA Discovery Reveals ‘Rainforest’ of Plant Life Beneath Arctic Ice (space.com)
- Arctic sea ice explorers find massive, bright green microscopic blooms (mnn.com)
- Life Blooms Under Arctic Ice (news.sciencemag.org)