National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2010

Biological response to recent Pacific Arctic sea ice retreats

Grebmeier, J.M., S.E. Moore, J.E. Overland, K.E. Frey, and R. Gradinger

Eos Trans. AGU, 91(18), 161–168, doi: 10.1029/2010EO180001 (2010)

Although recent major changes in the physical domain of the Arctic region, such as extreme retreats of summer sea ice since 2007, are well documented, large uncertainties remain regarding responses in the biological domain. In the Pacific Arctic north of Bering Strait, reduction in sea ice extent has been seasonally asymmetric, with minimal changes until the end of June and delayed sea ice formation in late autumn. The effect of extreme ice retreats and seasonal asymmetry in sea ice loss on primary production is uncertain, with no clear shift over time (2003–2008) in satellite- derived chlorophyll concentrations. However, clear changes have occurred during summer in species ranges for zooplankton, bottom- dwelling organisms (benthos), and fish, as well as through the loss of sea ice as habitat and platform for marine mammals. To discover and track ecosystem changes under further loss of sea ice, a coordinated campaign of observations would be beneficial. Recognizing this, researchers studying Arctic biology have suggested the implementation of an international distributed biological observatory (DBO) in the Pacific Arctic region (PAR; defined as the region north of St. Matthew Island to the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean) focused on four locations along a latitudinal gradient from the northern Bering to the western Beaufort seas. Through intense study of these areas, scientists will be able to better understand how climate change affects Arctic biology and to be able to start piecing together how this in turn affects the Earth system.

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