• Diversity and community structure of eukaryotic phototrophs in the Bering and Chukchi seas

      Lekanoff, Rachel M.; Collins, R. Eric; McDonnell, Andrew M.P.; Danielson, Seth L. (2020-05)
      The phytoplankton of the Bering and Chukchi seas support highly productive ecosystems characterized by tight benthic-pelagic coupling. In this study, we focus on the northern Bering and Chukchi seas, considering them as one ecosystem. This community has historically been dominated by diatoms; however, climate change and accompanying warming ocean temperatures may alter primary producer communities. Using metabarcoding, we present the first synoptic, high-throughput molecular phylogenetic investigation of phytoplankton diversity in the Bering and Chukchi seas based on hundreds of samples collected from June to September in 2017. We identify the major and minor taxonomic groups of diatoms and picophytoplankton, relative abundances of genera, exact sequence variants (201 for diatoms and 227 for picophytoplankton), and describe their biogeography. These phylogenetic insights and environmental data are used to characterize preferred temperature ranges, offering insight into which specific phytoplankton (Chaetoceros, Pseudo−nitzschia, Micromonas, Phaeocystis) may be most affected as the region warms. Finally, we investigated the likelihood of using shipboard CTD data alone as predictive variables for which members of phytoplankton communities may be present. We found that the suite of environmental data collected from a shipboard CTD is a poor predictor of community composition, explaining only 12.6% of variability within diatom genera and 14.2% variability within picophytoplankton genera. Clustering these communities by similarity of samples did improve predictability (43.6% for diatoms and 32.5% for picophytoplankton). However, our analyses succeeded in identifying temperature as a key driver for certain taxa found commonly throughout the region, offering a key insight into which common phytoplankton community members may be affected first as the Alaskan Arctic continues to warm.
    • Estimates of primary production sources to Arctic bivalves using amino acid stable carbon isotope fingerprinting

      Rowe, Audrey G.; Wooller, Matthew; Iken, Katrin; O'Brien, Diane (2018-12)
      Benthic invertebrates are a crucial trophic link in Arctic marine food webs. However, estimates of the contribution of primary production sources sustaining these organisms are not well characterized. Potential sources could include sinking particulate organic matter from sea ice algae and phytoplankton, terrestrial organic matter eroded from the coastal environment, macroalgal material, or microbial organic matter. Proportions of these sources could also be significantly altered in the future as a result of environmental change. We measured the stable carbon isotope values of essential amino acids in muscle tissue from two common bivalve genera (Macoma spp. and Astarte spp.) collected in Hanna Shoal in the northeastern Chukchi Sea, considered an Arctic benthic hotspot. We used stable isotope mixing models in R (simmr) to compare the stable carbon isotope amino acid fingerprints of the bivalves to a suite of amino acid source endmembers, including marine phytoplankton, brown and red macroalgae, bacteria, and terrestrial plants, to estimate the proportional contributions of primary production sources to the bivalve species from Hanna Shoal. The models revealed relatively high contributions of essential amino acids from phytoplankton and bacteria averaged across both species in the region as a whole. We also examined whether stable carbon isotope fingerprints could be measured from essential amino acids preserved in bivalve shells, which could then allow proportional contributions of food sources to be estimated from ancient bivalve shells, allowing source estimates to be extended back in time. To investigate this, we measured the stable carbon isotope values of essential amino acids in a suite of paired modern bivalve shells and muscle from Macoma calcarea from the Chukchi Sea. These analyses revealed a correspondence between the fingerprints and mixing model estimates of the dominant primary production source of essential amino acids derived from analyses of these two tissue types. Our findings indicate that stable carbon isotope amino acid fingerprinting of marine bivalves can be used to examine dominant organic matter sources in the Arctic marine benthos in recent years as well as in deeper time.