Sea Ice diatoms

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Diatoms are likely the most important primary producers within Arctic sea ice. These single celled algae are characterized by their silica frustules and may occur as single cells or in colonies. Diatoms account for about 50 to 75% of all protist species occurring with ice.  Currently 731 species have been observed in Arctic sea ice, with the majority of those common on Pan Arctic scales and in both the ice and the pelagic realms.

The occurrence of algae including diatoms within the ice is highly seasonal with pronounced algal peaks occurring in early spring (e.g. in March close to Barrow Alaska) well before the phytoplankton blooms. Large colony forming pennate species like Fragilariopsis oceanica or Nitzschia frigida are often dominant, but centric species like Eucampia groenlandica can also be abundant.

Sea ice diatoms are an important food source for sea ice meiofauna and under-ice amphipods. With the onset of ice melt, large fractions of the diatoms may sink to the sea floor and be consumed by benthic herbivores.


Page Author: Rolf Gradinger
Created: Sept 10, 2010

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