Arctic PRoductivity in the seasonal Ice ZonE (Arctic PrIZE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Biology


Arctic PRIZE will address the core objective of the Changing Arctic Ocean Program by seeking to understand and predict how change in sea ice and ocean properties will affect the large-scale ecosystem structure of the Arctic Ocean. We will investigate the seasonally and spatially varying relationship between sea ice, water column structure, light, nutrients and productivity and the roles they play in structuring energy transfer to pelagic zooplankton and benthic megafauna.
We focus on the seasonal ice zone (SIZ) of the Barents Sea - a highly productive region that is undergoing considerable change in its sea ice distribution - and target the critically important but under-sampled seasonal transition from winter into the post-bloom summer period. Of critical importance is the need to develop the predictive tools necessary to assess how the Arctic ecosystems will respond to a reducing sea ice cover. This will be achieved through a combined experimental/modelling programme. The project is embedded within international Arctic networks based in Norway and Canada and coordinated with ongoing US projects in the Pacific Arctic. Through these international research networks our proposal will have a legacy of cooperation far beyond the lifetime of the funding. The project comprises five integrated work packages.
WP1 Physical Parameters: We will measure properties of the water column (temperature, salinity, turbulent fluxes, light, fluorometry) in both open water and under sea ice by deploying animal-borne tags on seals which preferentially inhabit the marginal ice zone (MIZ). We will use ocean gliders to patrol the water around the MIZ and track it as the ice retreats northwards in summer. Measurements of underwater light fields will support development of improved regional remote sensing algorithms to extend the spatial and temporal context of the proposal beyond the immediate deployment period.
WP2 Nutrient Dynamics: We will undertake an extensive program of measuring inorganic and organic nutrients, their concentrations, isotopic signatures and vertical fluxes to understand the role of vertical mixing and advection (WP1) in regulating nutrient supply to PP in the surface ocean.
WP3 Phytoplankton Production: We will investigate nutrient supply (WP2) and light availability (WP1) linked to sea ice affect the magnitude, timing, and composition of phytoplankton production, and the role of seasonal physiological plasticity. Through new numerical parameterisations - cross-tuned and validated using a rich array of observations - we will develop predictive skill related to biological production and its fate; resolve longstanding questions about the competing effects of increased light and wind mixing associated with sea ice loss; and therefore contribute to the international effort to project the functioning of Pan-Arctic ecosystems.
WP4 Zooplankton Behaviour: Zooplankton undergo vertical migrations to graze on PP at the surface. We will use acoustic instruments on moorings and AUVs, with nets and video profiles to measure the composition and behaviours of pelagic organisms in relation in light and mixing (WP1) and phytoplankton production (WP3) over the seasonal cycle of sea ice cover. The behaviours identified will be used to improve models that capture the life-history and behavioural traits of Arctic zooplankton. These models can then be used to investigate how feeding strategies of key Arctic zooplankton species may be modified during an era of reducing sea ice cover.
WP5 Benthic Community: We will use an AUV equipped with camera system to acquire imagery of the large seabed-dwelling organisms to investigate how changes in sea ice duration (WP1), timing of PP (WP3) and bentho-pelagic coupling (WP4) can modify the spatial variation in benthic community composition. We will also conduct time series-studies in an Arctic fjord using a photolander system to record the seasonally varying community response to pulses of organic matter.

Planned Impact

Science-led: Arctic PRIZE is focused on improving the modelling capabilities of pan-Arctic ecosystem models. The modelling community will benefit from this research through integration of Arctic PRIZE with NEMO/MEDUSA (and subsequently with the UK Met Office and Hadley Centre) and other IPCC pan-Arctic model frameworks. We have partnerships with UK, US and Norwegian modelling groups and through these there will be improved projections for Arctic ecosystems in place for the next IPCC assessment.

Broader engagement with the science community will be through one of the largest annual meetings between science and stakeholders in the Arctic - Arctic Frontiers, hosted in Tromso, Norway. Arctic PRIZE will establish a special session at the Arctic Frontiers conference to disseminate the findings of the project and establish academic ties with other Arctic research programs. We will be exceptionally well placed, through our international collaborators, to contribute to regional assessments of the Barents Sea and wider pan-Arctic integration. PDRAs and PhD staff working on Arctic PRIZE will benefit through becoming members of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists and the Norwegian marine ecology network ARCTOS. This will ensure appropriate career development through training, peer engagement and networking.

Policy-led: The UK government made a clear statement of interest in the Arctic with the publication of the House of Lords report "Responding to a Changing Arctic" in 2015. To support UK interests we will develop a strong relationship with the UK Arctic Office to feed new science towards policy development in the areas of ecosystem services, fisheries and economic development - of particular relevance to emerging trade routes and mineral resources. Internationally, Arctic PRIZE will engage as a collaborator on a coordinated NSF program linked to Alaska fisheries and into Norwegian policy structures through our Project Partners in the Institute of Marine Research.

Outreach-led: The Arctic is a source of great public interest. The research team will interact with the public through personal, group and institutional websites, social media and links to exhibition centres such as SAMS' Ocean Explorer Centre (OEC) and the Glasgow Science Centre (GSC). This activity will be supported by training for PDRAs and PIs in the form of participation in the GSC 'Inspire and Challenge' professional science communication course. PDRAs and PIs will build on this by taking part in 'Meet the Expert' events at GSC before and after cruises and will maintain an interactive 'Arctic Expedition Blog' while at sea. The research team will work with GSC staff to develop an interactive exhibit that illustrates the role of greenhouse gases on warming of the Arctic and impact on ecosystem function. This exhibit will form part of GSCs upcoming EnviroScience Gallery and will showcase our research to an annual audience of over 300,000 visitors, including ~75,000 structured education visits. Arctic PRIZE will also allow us to expand formal science education locally in Argyll, from nursery to primary/secondary schools and undergraduate degree level building on previously highly successful talks/lectures, teaching material and visitor centre facilities (OEC) used to showcase science in the Arctic. Finally Arctic PRIZE will develop focused outreach videos by engaging a scientific film maker. These will help to illustrate and explain the key science messages in Arctic PRIZE to a wider audience.
Description We found that the movement behaviour of harp seals is associated sea ice concentration and bathymetric depth. Therefore, this specie will need to adapt to the rapid changes occurring in the Arctic ocean ecosystem.
We also investigate the amount of light available for under-ice ecosystems. The amount of light depends on abiotic (clouds, sea ice, snow, suspended matter) and biotic (sea ice algae and phytoplankton) factors. We reviewed how the available light affects the seasonal cycle of primary production and investigated the predicted future changes in under-ice light as a consequence of climate change and their potential ecological implications.
Exploitation Route The outcomes will build a basis for future studies investigating the impact of climate change and the decrease in the Arctic sea ice cover in particular on the Arctic ecocystem.
Sectors Environment

Description Collaboration with other NERC Arctic Change project: ARISE 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Department School of Biology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide behavioural data collected by animal-borne sensors to the Arise project. Combining fieldwork effort if possible.
Collaborator Contribution Partners provide environmental data collected by animal-borne sensors to the Prize project. Combining fieldwork effort if possible.
Impact No outputs were generate yet. This inter-disciplinary collaboration combines the oceanographic discipline within the Prize project with the more behavioural/ecosystem driven research of the Arise project. Both are part of the NERC Arctic Change programme and collaboration is therefore the appropriate approach.
Start Year 2017