Stanford University scholars discuss the Biden administration’s early actions on environmental issues in the Arctic and how the U.S. government can address threats to ecosystems, people and infrastructure in the fastest-warming place on Earth.
“There was a long-standing assumption that what was happening under the sea ice in the water column was almost ‘on pause’ during the polar night and before seasonal sea ice retreat, which is apparently not the case,” said Mathieu Ardyna.
A growing body of evidence suggests tiny marine algae can bloom in the darkness below sea ice in the Arctic Ocean – and that such blooms occurred even before climate change began affecting the region's ice cover.
Research co-authored by Kevin Arrigo of Stanford Earth shows increased phytoplankton biomass is driving a rise in net primary production in the Arctic Ocean, or how fast plants and algae convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into nutrients.
Stanford scientists find the growth of phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean has increased 57 percent over just two decades, enhancing its ability to soak up carbon dioxide. While once linked to melting sea ice, the increase is now propelled by rising concentrations of tiny algae.
“There is an entire ecosystem that lives within sea ice in polar regions that might be an analog for what’s happening on other [worlds],” says Kevin Arrigo in an article about how extraterrestrial oceans could support life.
Recent ocean modeling has suggested hydrothermal vents play a key role in how nutrients move through the ocean column. A study from Kevin Arrigo and Mathieu Ardyna confirms model predictions with real observations.
Research by Stanford Earth's Kevin Arrigo and Mathieu Ardyna suggests hydrothermal vents on the seafloor may have a larger impact on life near the water's surface and on the global carbon cycle than once thought.
As glaciers melt, nutrients they contain run into the ocean and fertilize local algal blooms. Although these food oases feed local animals, they don’t make up for global challenges produced by melting ice sheets.