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Effects of loss of perennial lake ice on mixing and phytoplankton dynamics: insights from High Arctic Canada

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Perennially ice-covered lakes are well known from Antarctica and also occur in the extreme High Arctic. Climate change has many implications for these lakes, including the thinning and disappearance of their perennial ice cover. The goal of this study was to consider the effects of transition to seasonal ice cover by way of limnological observations on a series of meromictic lakes along the northern coastline of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada. Conductivity–temperature profiles during a rare period of ice-free conditions (August 2008) in these lakes suggested effects of wind-induced mixing of their surface freshwater layers and the onset of entrainment of water at the halocline. Sampling of the mixed layer of one of these meromictic lakes in May and August 2008 revealed a pronounced vertical structure in phytoplankton pigments and species composition, with dominance by cyanobacteria, green algae, chrysophytes, cryptophytes and dinoflagellates, and a conspicuous absence of diatoms. The loss of ice cover resulted in an 80-fold increase in water column irradiance and apparent mixing of the upper water column during a period of higher wind speeds. Zeaxanthin, a pigment found in cyanobacteria, was entirely restricted to the <3 μm cell fraction at all depths and increased by a factor of 2–17, with the greatest increases in the upper halocline region subject to mixing. Consistent with the pigment data, picocyanobacterial populations increased by a factor of 3, with the highest concentration (1.65 × 108 cells L–1) in the upper halocline. Chlorophyll a concentrations and the relative importance of phytoplankton groups differed among the four lakes during the open-water period, implying lake-specific differences in phytoplankton community structure under ice-free conditions.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-12-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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