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Will low primary production rates in the Amundsen Basin (Arctic Ocean) remain low in a future ice-free setting, and what governs this production?

New publication by Lars Chresten Lund-Hansen , Jørgen Bendtsen, Tanja Stratmann, Rasmus Tonboe, Steffen Malskær Olsen, Stiig Markager, Brian K.Sorrell


The study is based on a very extensive data-set of physical, biological, and optical parameters from below the sea ice in the western Amundsen Basin, central Arctic Ocean, in August–September 2012 during the record low sea ice extent. The water column was strongly stratified at all stations related to salinity differences between a surface layer of reduced salinities (<29–33) and deep-water layer salinities (>34). A nitrate utilization-based budget in the surface layer gave a primary production of 67.5 mg C m2 d1, which reduced to 3.9 mg C m2 d1 in August 2012. Amundsen Basin primary production rates are lower than rates determined for other Arctic Ocean deep-water basins, and also lower compared to rates on the shelf. Below ice phytoplankton was well adapted to low light conditions in the Amundsen Basin and the photosynthetic potential was high, but limited by the low nutrient fluxes induced by the strong stratification. Amundsen Basin is foreseen to be ice-free in summer in 3–4 decades, and the question whether primary production will increase when ice-free was resolved with a coupled physical-biogeochemical model. Results showed that production will increase 10 to 14 times from the present 3.9 mg C m2 d1 to 37.4 and 55.2 mg C m2 d1 for an ice-free August and July–August, respectively. The study substantiates that both present and future ice-free low production rates were related to the strong stratification, reduced nutrient fluxes, and deep lying nutrient rich waters. Low production rates and strong stratification are discussed in the view of parameters that increase this stratification as higher freshwater run off or reduce stratification as wind.