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Biogenic carbon flows through the planktonic food web of the Amundsen Gulf (Arctic Ocean): A synthesis of field measurements and inverse modeling analyses

Forest, Alexandre, Tremblay, Jean-Éric, Gratton, Yves, Martin, Johannie, Gagnon, Jonathan, Darnis, Gérald, Sampei, Makoto, Fortier, Louis, Ardyna, Mathieu, Gosselin, Michel, Hattori, Hiroshi, Nguyen, Dan, Maranger, Roxane, Vaqué, Dolors, Marrasé, Cèlia, Pedrós-Alió, Carlos, Sallon, Amélie, Michel, Christine, Kellogg, Colleen, Deming, Jody, Shadwick, Elizabeth, Thomas, Helmuth, Link, Heike, Archambault, Philippe, Piepenburg, Dieter
Progress in oceanography 2011 v.91 no.4 pp. 410-436
Algae, Calanus, Metridia longa, bacteria, benthic organisms, biomass, carbon, chlorophyll, climate change, dissolved organic carbon, drawdown, fishery resources, food webs, herbivores, ice, marine ecosystems, models, nitrates, phytoplankton, primary productivity, secondary productivity, surface water temperature, zooplankton, Arctic region, Beaufort Sea
Major pathways of biogenic carbon (C) flow are resolved for the planktonic food web of the flaw lead polynya system of the Amundsen Gulf (southeast Beaufort Sea, Arctic Ocean) in spring-summer 2008. This period was relevant to study the effect of climate change on Arctic marine ecosystems as it was characterized by unusually low ice cover and warm sea surface temperature. Our synthesis relied on a mass balance estimate of gross primary production (GPP) of 52.5±12.5gCm⁻² calculated using the drawdown of nitrate and dissolved inorganic C, and a seasonal f-ratio of 0.64. Based on chlorophyll a biomass, we estimated that GPP was dominated by phytoplankton (93.6%) over ice algae (6.4%) and by large cells (>5μm, 67.6%) over small cells (<5μm, 32.4%). Ancillary in situ data on bacterial production, zooplankton biomass and respiration, herbivory, bacterivory, vertical particle fluxes, pools of particulate and dissolved organic carbon (POC, DOC), net community production (NCP), as well as selected variables from the literature were used to evaluate the fate of size-fractionated GPP in the ecosystem. The structure and functioning of the planktonic food web was elucidated through inverse analysis using the mean GPP and the 95% confidence limits of every other field measurement as lower and upper constraints. The model computed a net primary production of 49.2gCm⁻², which was directly channeled toward dominant calanoid copepods (i.e. Calanus hyperboreus 20%, Calanus glacialis 10%, and Metridia longa 10%), other mesozooplankton (12%), microzooplankton (14%), detrital POC (18%), and DOC (16%). Bacteria required 29.9gCm⁻², a demand met entirely by the DOC derived from local biological activities. The ultimate C outflow comprised respiration fluxes (82% of the initial GPP), a small sedimentation (3%), and a modest residual C flow (15%) resulting from NCP, dilution and accumulation. The sinking C flux at the model limit depth (395m) supplied 60% of the estimated benthic C demand (2.8gCm⁻²), suggesting that the benthos relied partly on other C sources within the bottom boundary layer to fuel its activity. In summary, our results illustrate that the ongoing decline in Arctic sea ice promotes the growth of pelagic communities in the Amundsen Gulf, which benefited from a ∼80% increase in GPP in spring-summer 2008 when compared to 2004 – a year of average ice conditions and relatively low GPP. However, 53% of the secondary production was generated within the microbial food web, the net ecological efficiency of zooplankton populations was not particularly high (13.4%), and the quantity of biogenic C available for trophic export remained low (6.6gCm⁻²). Hence it is unlikely that the increase in lower food web productivity, such as the one observed in our study, could support new harvestable fishery resources in the offshore Beaufort Sea domain.