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Micro-gels from tiny ice algae play an important role in polar ocean carbon budgets
A community of microscopic algae and bacteria thrives within the Arctic and Antarctic pack ice. These ice-organisms are adapted to growing on the ice crystal surfaces and within a labyrinth of channels and pores that permeate the ice floes.
Many marine organisms secrete gel-like substances in response to environmental stress, and these ice-dwellers are no exception. In fact they secrete large quantities of gels that are made up from various types of polysaccharides.
A new study released in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, now demonstrate that these gels from ice-microorganisms are important in both the Arctic and Antarctic. It is likely that they will not only affect the physical structure within the ice but also how carbon travels to the ocean floor and even the weather.
Caption: The ice algae secrete gel-like substances in response to environmental stress. New research shows that this micro-gel plays an important role in polar ocean carbon budgets. Credit: David N. Thomas
Publication: GJC Underwood, S Aslam, C Michel, A Niemi, L Norman, KM Meiners, J Laybourn-Parry, H Paterson & DN Thomas. 2013. Broad-scale predictability of carbohydrates and exopolymers in Antarctic and Arctic sea ice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, DOI 10.1073/pnas.1302870110