Fatty acid and stable isotope characteristics of sea ice and pelagic particulate organic matter in the Bering Sea: tools for estimating sea ice algal contribution to Arctic food web production.

Research paper by Shiway W SW Wang, Suzanne M SM Budge, Rolf R RR Gradinger, Katrin K Iken, Matthew J MJ Wooller

Indexed on: 28 Nov '13Published on: 28 Nov '13Published in: Oecologia


We determined fatty acid (FA) profiles and carbon stable isotopic composition of individual FAs (δ(13)CFA values) from sea ice particulate organic matter (i-POM) and pelagic POM (p-POM) in the Bering Sea during maximum ice extent, ice melt, and ice-free conditions in 2010. Based on FA biomarkers, differences in relative composition of diatoms, dinoflagellates, and bacteria were inferred for i-POM versus p-POM and for seasonal succession stages in p-POM. Proportions of diatom markers were higher in i-POM (16:4n-1, 6.6-8.7%; 20:5n-3, 19.6-25.9%) than in p-POM (16:4n-1, 1.2-4.0%; 20:5n-3, 5.5-14.0%). The dinoflagellate marker 22:6n-3/20:5n-3 was highest in p-POM. Bacterial FA concentration was higher in the bottom 1 cm of sea ice (14-245 μg L(-1)) than in the water column (0.6-1.7 μg L(-1)). Many i-POM δ(13)C(FA) values were higher (up to ~10‰) than those of p-POM, and i-POM δ(13)C(FA) values increased with day length. The higher i-POM δ(13)C(FA) values are most likely related to the reduced dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) availability within the semi-closed sea ice brine channel system. Based on a modified Rayleigh equation, the fraction of sea ice DIC fixed in i-POM ranged from 12 to 73%, implying that carbon was not limiting for primary productivity in the sympagic habitat. These differences in FA composition and δ(13)C(FA) values between i-POM and p-POM will aid efforts to track the proportional contribution of sea ice algal carbon to higher trophic levels in the Bering Sea and likely other Arctic seas.