Arctic Sea-Ice Ecosystem Degradation

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Background Information Sea ice is one of the largest ecosystems on Earth and is home to a number of diverse organisms, and holds influence on adjacent marine and terrestrial ecosystems (Arrigo 2013; Post et al. 2013). Polar sea ice covers between 3.9-4.3% of the total surface of the Earth throughout the year (Arrigo 2013) and a substantial decline of arctic sea ice has been recorded in recent years (Fig. 1) (Johannessen and Miles 2011; Post et al. 2013; Zhang et al. 2010). Sea ice is home to a variety of microorganisms, provides habitat for a number of vertebrates, and also has a large impact on terrestrial diversity and productivity in the Arctic, with 80% of low-lying tundra being within 100km of seasonally ice-covered ocean (Bhatt et al. 2010; Post et al. 2013). In the past three decades the summer minimum ice extent has decreased by approximately 45%, from 7.0-7.5 x106 km2 in the 1980s to 3.5-4.5 x106 km2 between 2007 and 2012 (Arrigo 2013). Not only is there a reduction in sea ice extent, there is also a reduction in sea ice thickness (Maslanik et al. 2011). This thinner sea ice has resulted in less rigid ice, thinner snow cover, more surface melt ponds, and less incoming solar radiation being reflected (Nicolaus et al. 2012). Sea ice loss is not just an indicator of global warming; it is also the result of a feedback mechanism in the Arctic deriving from decreasing surface albedo (Serreze and Barry 2011). Over the past 50 years the annual mean surface air temperatures on Earth, especially in the Arctic have been increasing (Fig 2). Bhatt et al. (2008) found that summer sea-ice loss is linked to land surface warming in the arctic. The dramatic loss of sea ice in the Arctic has led to major impacts to the diversity for sea ic... ... middle of paper ... ...Research Letters. 39:L24501. doi: 10.1029/2012GL053738 Post E, Bhatt US, Bitz CM, Brodie JF, Fulton TL, Hebblewhite M, Kerby J, Kutz SJ, Stirling I and Walker DA. (2013). Ecological Consequences of Sea-Ice Decline. Science. 341(6145):519-524. doi: 10.1126/science.1235225 Schweiger A, Lindsay R, Zhang J, Steele M, Stern H and Kwok R. (2011) Uncertainty in modeled Arctic sea ice. Journal of Geophysical Research. 116: C00D06. doi: 10.1029/2011JC007084 Serreze MC and Barry RG. (2011). Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis. Global and Planetary Change. 77:85-96. doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2011.03.004 Zhang J, Spitz YH, Steele M, Ashjian C, Campbell R, Berline L and Matrai P. (2010). Modeling the impact of declining sea ice on the Arctic marine planktonic ecosystem. Journal of Geophysical Research. 115:C10015. doi: 10.1029/2009JC005387
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