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Abstract

Polar sea ice is one of the largest ecosystems on Earth. The liquid brine fraction of the ice matrix is home to a diverse array of organisms, ranging from tiny archaea to larger fish and invertebrates. These organisms can tolerate high brine salinity and low temperature but do best when conditions are milder. Thriving ice algal communities, generally dominated by diatoms, live at the ice/water interface and in recently flooded surface and interior layers, especially during spring, when temperatures begin to rise. Although protists dominate the sea ice biomass, heterotrophic bacteria are also abundant. The sea ice ecosystem provides food for a host of animals, with crustaceans being the most conspicuous. Uneaten organic matter from the ice sinks through the water column and feeds benthic ecosystems. As sea ice extent declines, ice algae likely contribute a shrinking fraction of the total amount of organic matter produced in polar waters.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-marine-010213-135103
2014-01-03
2024-04-16
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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