Modeling Phytoplankton Blooms and Inorganic Carbon Responses to Sea-Ice Variability in the West Antarctic Peninsula

C. Schultz, S. C. Doney, J. Hauck, M. T. Kavanaugh, O. Schofield

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6 Scopus citations


The ocean coastal-shelf-slope ecosystem west of the Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is a biologically productive region that could potentially act as a large sink of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The duration of the sea-ice season in the WAP shows large interannual variability. However, quantifying the mechanisms by which sea ice impacts biological productivity and surface dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) remains a challenge due to the lack of data early in the phytoplankton growth season. In this study, we implemented a circulation, sea-ice, and biogeochemistry model (MITgcm-REcoM2) to study the effect of sea ice on phytoplankton blooms and surface DIC. Results were compared with satellite sea-ice and ocean color, and research ship surveys from the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. The simulations suggest that the annual sea-ice cycle has an important role in the seasonal DIC drawdown. In years of early sea-ice retreat, there is a longer growth season leading to larger seasonally integrated net primary production (NPP). Part of the biological uptake of DIC by phytoplankton, however, is counteracted by increased oceanic uptake of atmospheric CO2. Despite lower seasonal NPP, years of late sea-ice retreat show larger DIC drawdown, attributed to lower air-sea CO2 fluxes and increased dilution by sea-ice melt. The role of dissolved iron and iron limitation on WAP phytoplankton also remains a challenge due to the lack of data. The model results suggest sediments and glacial meltwater are the main sources in the coastal and shelf regions, with sediments being more influential in the northern coast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JG006227
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research G: Biogeosciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Forestry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Palaeontology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


  • West Antarctic Peninsula
  • air-sea fluxes
  • biogeochemical modeling
  • inorganic carbon cycle
  • phytoplankton bloom
  • sea ice


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