07 May 2024
 | 07 May 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Changes in Arctic Ocean plankton community structure and trophic dynamics on seasonal to interannual timescales

Gabriela Negrete-García, Jessica Y. Luo, Colleen M. Petrik, Manfredi Manizza, and Andrew D. Barton

Abstract. The Arctic Ocean experiences significant seasonal to interannual environmental changes, including in temperature, light, sea ice, and surface nutrient concentrations, that influence the dynamics of marine plankton populations. Here, we use a hindcast simulation (1948–2009) of size-structured Arctic Ocean plankton communities, ocean circulation, and biogeochemical cycles in order to better understand how seasonal to interannual changes in the environment influence phytoplankton physiology, plankton community structure, trophic dynamics, and fish production in the Arctic Ocean. The growth of model phytoplankton was primarily limited in winter, spring, and fall by light, but in summer, the growth of smaller and larger phytoplankton was mostly limited by temperature and nutrient availability, respectively. The dominant trophic pathway in summer was from phytoplankton to herbivorous zooplankton, such that the average trophic position of model zooplankton was lower in the summer growing season compared with the rest of the year. On interannual timescales, changes in plankton community composition were strongly tied to interannual changes in bottom-up forcing by the environment. In the summer, in years with lower ice and warmer temperatures, the biomass of phytoplankton and zooplankton was higher, the size abundance relationship slopes were more negative (indicative of a phytoplankton community enriched in smaller phytoplankton), zooplankton had higher mean trophic position (indicative of greater carnivory), and potential fisheries production was greater, fueled by increased mesozooplankton biomass and flux of organic matter to the benthos. The summertime shift toward greater carnivory in warmer and low-ice years was due primarily to changes in phenology, with phytoplankton and microzoopankton blooms occurring approximately one month earlier in these conditions, and carnivorous zooplankton increasing in abundance during summer. The model provides a spatially and temporally complete overview of changes in plankton communities in the Arctic Ocean occurring on seasonal to interannual timescales, and provides insights on the mechanisms underlying these changes as well as their broader biogeochemical and ecosystems significance.

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Gabriela Negrete-García, Jessica Y. Luo, Colleen M. Petrik, Manfredi Manizza, and Andrew D. Barton

Status: open (until 21 Jun 2024)

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Gabriela Negrete-García, Jessica Y. Luo, Colleen M. Petrik, Manfredi Manizza, and Andrew D. Barton
Gabriela Negrete-García, Jessica Y. Luo, Colleen M. Petrik, Manfredi Manizza, and Andrew D. Barton


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Short summary
The Arctic Ocean experiences significant seasonal and year-to-year changes, impacting marine plankton populations. Using a plankton community model, we studied these effects on plankton communities and their influence on fish production. Our findings revealed earlier plankton blooms, shifts towards more carnivorous zooplankton, and increased fisheries potential during summertime, especially in warmer years with less ice, highlighting the delicate balance of Arctic ecosystems.