It is well established that during sea-ice formation, crystals aggregate into a solid matrix, and dissolved sea-water constituents, including inorganic nutrients, are rejected from the ice matrix. However, the behaviour of dissolved organic matter (DOM) during ice formation and growth has not been studied to date. DOM is the primary energetic substrate for microbial heterotrophic activity in sea water and sea ice, and therefore it is at the base of the trophic fluxes within the microbial food web. The aim of our study was to compare the behaviour of DOM and inorganic nutrients during formation and growth of sea ice. Experiments were conducted in a large indoor ice-tank facility (Hamburg Ship Model Basin, Germany) at −15°C. Three 1 m3 tanks, to which synthetic sea water, nutrients and dissolved organic compounds (diatom-extracted DOM) had been added, were sampled over a period of 5 days during sea-ice formation. Samples were collected throughout the experiment from water underlying the ice, and at the end from the ice as well. Brine was obtained from the ice by centrifuging ice cores. Inorganic nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) were substantially enriched in brine in comparison to water and ice phases, consistent with the processes of ice formation and brine rejection. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was also enriched in brine but was more variable and enriched in comparison to a dilution line. No difference in bacteria numbers was observed between water, ice and brine. No bacteria growth was measured, and this therefore had no influence on the measurable DOC levels. We conclude that the incorporation of dissolved organic compounds in newly forming ice is conservative. However, since the proportions of DOC in the brine were partially higher than those of the inorganic nutrients, concentrating effects of DOC in brine might be different compared to salts.
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