Published On: Fri, Jun 8th, 2012

NASA New Discovery: Phytoplanktons Exist Under Arctic Ice (Video)

In a seemingly barren ice of the Arctic, NASA finds a new discovery that a life exists in the form of Phytoplankton blooms. NASA scientists compare the new discovery to a rainforest in the middle of the dessert, upending preconceptions about Artic ecosystems.

Phytoplanktons are single-celled organisms which possess the green pigment chlorophyll just as plants do, helping them live off sunlight. They are vital to life in the seas, serving as the basic food source for many ocean animals. They are responsible for much of the oxygen present in the Earth’s atmosphere – half of the total amount produced by all plant life.

Phytoplanktons obtain their energy through the process of photosynthesis and must therefore live in the well-lit surface layer of an ocean, sea, lake, or other body of water.

Kevin Arrigo, the leader of the ICESCAPE mission and a biological oceanographer at Stanford University in California, said their expedition was a complete surprise.

ICESCAPE, which stands for Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment, is an organization that studies how ocean life was responding to recent declines in sea ice levels.

NASA New Discovery: Massive Phytoplankton Bloom Discovered Under Arctic Sea Ice

“If someone had asked me before the expedition whether we would see under-ice blooms, I would have told them it was impossible. As someone who has been studying polar marine ecosystems for 25 years, I had always thought that the idea of under-ice phytoplankton blooms was nonsense,” Kevin Arrigo said.

“The idea that phytoplankton can not only bloom under 3-foot-thick ice but that they can reach numbers that put their open-water counterparts to shame was a complete surprise. It means we have to rethink many of our ideas about how the Arctic Ocean ecosystems function,” he added.

According to their discovery, Phytoplankton blooms spring up in the Arctic during the summer, when the sun is constantly above the horizon. As it turns out, phytoplankton not only flourishes under thick layers of ice, but grows in numbers about four times higher under the ice than in the open water.

Now, researchers want to figure out how widespread under-ice phytoplankton blooms are and determine their impact on the polar marine ecosystems. However, “this will be difficult because the Arctic can be a pretty inhospitable place and sampling deep within the ice pack, which is what this research would require, is challenging, even for an icebreaker,” Arrigo said.

Below is the video of NASA’s new discovery about the existence of phytoplanktons under Arctic Ice:

NASA’s new discovery of the existence of phytoplanktons under Arctic Ice

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