Nitrogen uptake and phytoplankton productivity in the changing Arctic Ocean

Lead Research Organisation: University of the Highlands and Islands
Department Name: Scottish Assoc for Marine Science UHI


The recent decline of Arctic sea ice is one of the most pronounced examples of contemporary physical climate change on Earth. The newly-funded Arctic PRIZE project (Arctic PRoductivity in the seasonal Ice ZonE) aims to determine how these sea ice changes will affect biological and biogeochemical systems in this climatically-sensitive region.
Despite the recognised importance of DON as a nutrient for phytoplankton growth, there is little information on the relative utilisation of different forms of inorganic and organic N and possible links to the phytoplankton community composition, especially in Arctic waters. The aim of this study is to evaluate the relative utilisation of different forms of DIN and DON by different phytoplankton size fractions and functional groups, to identify patterns in phytoplankton community composition and abundance associated to these chemical (as well as physical) drivers, and hence to evaluate their influence on Arctic phytoplankton productivity and community composition.
Hypothesis Organic N has the potential to act as a major N source for Arctic phytoplankton populations.

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.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/P006302/1 01/02/2017 31/01/2024
1971813 Studentship NE/P006302/1 30/09/2017 30/03/2021 Judith Braun