The future of Arctic sea-ice biogeochemistry and ice-associated ecosystems

Abstract

The Arctic sea-ice-scape is rapidly transforming. Increasing light penetration will initiate earlier seasonal primary production. This earlier growing season may be accompanied by an increase in ice algae and phytoplankton biomass, augmenting the emission of dimethylsulfide and capture of carbon dioxide. Secondary production may also increase on the shelves, although the loss of sea ice exacerbates the demise of sea-ice fauna, endemic fish and megafauna. Sea-ice loss may also deliver more methane to the atmosphere, but warmer ice may release fewer halogens, resulting in fewer ozone depletion events. The net changes in carbon drawdown are still highly uncertain. Despite large uncertainties in these assessments, we expect disruptive changes that warrant intensified long-term observations and modelling efforts.

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Fig. 1: Schematic of seasonal sea-ice biogeochemical processes in the Arctic Ocean.
Fig. 2: Past and predicted changes in sea-ice physical characteristics along latitudes.
Fig. 3: Map of the Arctic Ocean.
Fig. 4: Future expectations of changes in the sea-ice biogeochemical system in the Arctic.

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Acknowledgements

This Perspective is a product of the Biogeochemical Exchange Processes at Sea-Ice Interfaces (BEPSII) research community. This manuscript was first conceived at the Arctic Sea-Ice Change foresight workshop held in Davos, Switzerland, in June 2018 and is supported by the Euromarine Network.

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D.L., L.T., M. v.L., K.C., H.F., B.D., L.M. and J.S. led the design and the writing of the paper. G.C., F.F., N.S., M.V. and M.V. significantly contributed to the ‘Environmental conditions’ section. P.A., J.B., H.K., K.M., I.P., J.-M.R. and P.W. significantly contributed to the ‘Biota’ section. K.B., M.C., O.C., E.D., B.E., A.F., N.-X.G., C.J., E.J., M.K., S.M., D.N., N.S., J.-L.T. and F.v.d.L. significantly contributed to the ‘Gases’ section.

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Correspondence to Delphine Lannuzel.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Historical and ‘worst-case’ RCP8.5 scenario source data.

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Lannuzel, D., Tedesco, L., van Leeuwe, M. et al. The future of Arctic sea-ice biogeochemistry and ice-associated ecosystems. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 983–992 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-00940-4

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