• Tracing sea ice algae into various benthic feeding types on the Chukchi Sea shelf

      Schollmeier, Tanja; Iken, Katrin; Wooller, Matthew; Hardy, Sarah (2018-12)
      Climate change in the Arctic is expected to have drastic effects on marine primary production sources by shifting ice-associated primary production to an overall greater contribution from pelagic primary production. This shift could influence the timing, amount, and quality of algal material reaching the benthos. We determined the contribution of sea ice particulate organic matter (iPOM) to benthic-feeding invertebrates by examining concentrations and stable carbon isotope values (expressed as δ¹³C values) of three FAs prominent in diatoms: 16:4(n-1), 16:1(n-7) and 20:5(n-3). Our underlying assumption was that diatoms make up the majority in sea ice algal communities compared with phytoplankton communities. According to the FA concentrations, subsurface deposit feeders consumed the most iPOM and suspension feeders the least. Conversely, there were little differences in δ¹³C values of FAs between deposit and suspension feeders, but the higher δ¹³C values of 16:1(n-7) in omnivores indicated greater consumption of iPOM. We suggest that omnivores accumulate the ice algal FA biomarker from their benthic prey, which in turn may feed on ice algae from a deposited sediment pool. The dissimilar results between FA concentrations and isotope values suggest that the FAs used here may not be sufficiently source-specific and that other unaccounted for production sources, such as bacteria, may also contribute to the FA pool. We propose that FA isotope values are a more indicative biomarker than FA concentrations, but there is a further need for more specific ice algal biomarkers to resolve the question of ice algal contributions to the Arctic benthic food web.