Friday, April 13, 2018

Sea ice analysis

I clicked the blue text to open the link for the folder. August 2003. Before me appeared a list of files, each with blue text as well. One for each day in the month. I clicked on the first one, and the file for August 1 downloaded to my laptop. August 2. August 3. One by one, the daily files streamed onto my hard drive.

I clicked through files for hours. Each one contained data on ice cover in the Arctic, with a separate file for each day from August 1, 2003 to August 31, 2017. That's the period when larvae may have settled on my recruitment panels in the Arctic deep sea. I've been trying to figure out what environmental factors might influence recruitment, based on results from the long-term experiment I recovered with my German collaborators last summer. So far, I've looked at changes in water temperature, bottom current, and food input to the seafloor. Nothing seemed to quite line up. So I started looking at the ice cover.

Sea ice in the Fram Strait
Sea ice has a profound effect on the Arctic ecosystem. The thick floes of ice form a blanket on the sea surface that dampens waves and creates a very stable water column. Phytoplankton are less likely to get mixed down in the ocean, out of the reach of light, and as a result, the ice edge is usually an area of very high productivity. Some of the plankton that grow at the surface end up falling to the seafloor, so they serve as a food source to benthic organisms.

There appears to be some connection between sea ice cover and recruitment to my panels, with the highest recruitment occurring in years with low ice cover that are preceded by years with high ice cover. I still need to look into it more before drawing any conclusions, but I'm very excited to relate my recruitment data to what's going on in the surrounding environment.

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