Geography

Title

Assessing the potential impacts of declining Arctic sea ice cover on the photochemical degradation of dissolved organic matter in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas

Document Type

Article

Abstract

A warming and shifting climate in the Arctic has led to significant declines in sea ice over the last several decades. Although these changes in sea ice cover are well documented, large uncertainties remain in how associated increases in solar radiation transmitted to the underlying ocean water column will impact heating, biological, and biogeochemical processes in the Arctic Ocean. In this study, six under-ice marine, two ice-free marine, and two ice-free terrestrially influenced water samples were irradiated using a solar simulator for 72 h (representing ~10 days of ambient sunlight) to investigate dissolved organic matter (DOM) dynamics from the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Solar irradiation caused chromophoric DOM (CDOM) light absorption at 254 nm to decrease by 48 to 63%. An overall loss in total DOM fluorescence intensity was also observed at the end of all experiments, and each of six components identified by parallel factor (PARAFAC) analysis was shown to be photoreactive in at least one experiment. Fluorescent DOM (FDOM) also indicated that the majority of DOM in under-ice and ice-free marine waters was likely algal-derived. Measurable changes in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were only observed for sites influenced by riverine runoff. Losses of CDOM absorbance at shorter wavelengths suggest that the beneficial UV protection currently received by marine organisms may decline with the increased light transmittance associated with sea ice melt ponding and overall reductions of sea ice. Our FDOM analyses demonstrate that DOM irrespective of source was susceptible to photobleaching. Additionally, our findings suggest that photodegradation of CDOM in under-ice waters is not currently a significant source of carbon dioxide (CO2) (i.e., we did not observe systematic DOC loss). However, increases in primary production and terrestrial freshwater export expected under future climate change scenarios may cause an increase in CDOM quantity and shift in quality throughout Arctic Ocean surface waters. As Arctic temperatures continue to warm and summer sea ice further declines, examination of the resulting enhanced photodegradation processes and their impacts on the interplay between primary production, carbon cycling, and surface ocean heating processes will be paramount.

Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences

Publication Date

2015

Volume

120

Issue

11

First Page

2326

Last Page

2344

ISSN

2169-8953

DOI

10.1002/2015JG003052

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