Algae blooms in Arctic as thinning ice lets in light

30 March 2017, 08:23 AM
Representational Image (Source: PTI)
Representational Image (Source: PTI)

Microscopic algae finds its way in the inhospitable region around the North Pole resulting from climate change that is gripping life in the Arctic Ocean as thinning sea ice allows in more sunlight, scientists said on Wednesday.

At the peak of the brief summer in July, the micro-algae may now be able to grow under the ice across almost 30 percent of the Arctic Ocean up from about five percent 30 years ago, they wrote. Blooms may become even more widespread.

The first massive under-ice bloom of algae was seen in 2011 in the Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Strait separating Alaska and Russia, a region until then thought too dark for photosynthesis.

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"Recent climate change may have markedly altered the ecology of the Arctic Ocean", wrote scientists in the United States and Britain led by Christopher Horvat of Harvard University.

The scientists, writing in the open-access journal Science Advances, based their estimates on mathematical models of the thinning ice and ponds of melt water on the ice surface that help ever more sunlight perforate into the frigid waters below.

According to another study, the average thickness of Arctic sea ice fell to 1.89 metres (6.2 ft) in 2008 from 3.64 meters in 1980. When the sun disapears for months, sub-ice algae seem to become comatose in winter and are regenerated in spring.

As informed by the source it was unclear how the growth might have knock-on effects on the Arctic food chain, perhaps drawing more fish northwards. 

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This had raised qualms about the economic future of the region that is warming at about twice the average rate for the Earth as a whole. Almost all governments blame this trend mainly on a build-up of man-made greenhouse gases.

However, U.S. President Donald Trump has sometimes called man-made warming a hoax and signed an order on Tuesday to revoke climate change regulations issued by former President Barack Obama.

As the ice shrinks and thins, governments of nations around the Arctic Ocean, including the United States, have been working on rules for managing potential future fish stocks in the central Arctic Ocean. They last met in mid-March in Iceland.

First Published: Thursday, March 30, 2017 08:16 AM
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