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Removal of snow cover inhibits growth of Arctic ice algae

Snow clearing (Photo: Lars Chresten Lund-Hansen)

Forecasts suggest that an important effect of climate change in the Arctic will be less snow covering sea ice. Associate Professors Lars Chresten Lund-Hansen and Brian Sorrell, Institute for Bioscience and Arctic Research Centre (ARC), and their colleagues have been studying how this affects algae living at the bottom of sea ice, which are important plants in marine ecosystems. By clearing snow from the sea ice on Kangerlussuaq Fjord in Greenland (see picture), they were able to show that the sudden increase in light transmission through the ice was stressful for the microscopic algae, which abandoned the ice. Sea ice algae are an important food source for marine animals at certain times of the year, so this may have wider effects on marine food webs.