At the rainbow's end: high productivity fueled by winter upwelling along an Arctic shelf

Stig Falk-Petersen, Vladimir Pavlov, Jorgen Berge, Finlo Cottier, Kit M. Kovacs, Christian Lydersen

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Abstract

Herein we document findings from a unique scientific expedition north of Svalbard in the middle of the polar night in January 2012, where we observed an ice edge north of 82°N coupled with pronounced upwelling. The area north of Svalbard has probably been ice-covered during winter in the period from approximately 1790 until the 1980s, a period during which heavy ice conditions have prevailed in the Barents Sea and Svalbard waters. However, recent winters have been characterized by midwinter open water conditions on the shelf, concomitant with northeasterly along-shelf winds in January 2012. The resulting northward Ekman transport resulted in a strong upwelling of Atlantic Water along the shelf. We suggest that a reduction in sea ice and the upwelling of nutrient-rich waters seen in the winter of 2012 created conditions similar to those that occurred during the peak of the European whaling period (1690–1790) and that this combination of physical features was in fact the driving force behind the high primary and secondary production of diatoms and Calanus spp., which sustained the large historical stocks of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in Arctic waters near Spitsbergen.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-11
Number of pages6
JournalPolar Biology
Volume38
Issue number1
Early online date21 Mar 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Keywords

  • Arctic hotspot
  • Arctic sea ice
  • Arctic shelf break
  • Balaena mysticetus
  • Bowhead whales
  • Calanus spp.
  • Climate change
  • Ekman transport

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