NASA new discovery: Phytoplankton blooms flourishing under thick layers of Arctic ice were discovered by researchers, Universe Today reported on Thursday.
NASA scientists compare the new discovery to a rainforest in the middle of the dessert, upending preconceptions about Artic ecosystems. At first look, the Artic is perceived to consist barren ice all over and nothing else. But after the unexpected find, all preconceptions about the Artic were shattered as it can host huge bright green blooms of microscopic plantlike organisms underneath it suggesting that the Arctic Ocean is far more productive than previously thought.
Kevin Arrigo, the leader of the ICESCAPE mission, said their expedition was a complete surprise.
“If someone had asked me before the expedition whether we would see under-ice blooms, I would have told them it was impossible,” he said.
ICESCAPE stands for Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment. In 2010 and 2011, this group of scientists explored Arctic waters in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas along Alaska’s western and northern coasts onboard a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker. The researchers drilled down through three-foot thick sea ice to study impacts of environmental variability and change in the Arctic on the ocean biology, ecology and biogeochemistry.
And according to their latest discovery, Phytoplankton blooms spring up in the Arctic during the summer, when the sun is constantly above the horizon. The group is assuming that the growth and amount of phytoplankton was negligible in waters beneath the ice there, although there were hints of phytoplankton blooms under the ice in the Barents and Beaufort seas and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
As it turns out, phytoplankton not only flourishes under thick layers of ice, but grows in numbers about four times higher under the ice than in the open water.
“The idea that phytoplankton can not only bloom under 3-foot-thick ice but that they can reach numbers that put their open-water counterparts to shame was a complete surprise,” Arrigo told OurAmazingPlanet. “It means we have to rethink many of our ideas about how the Arctic Ocean ecosystems function.”