A Much-Needed Baseline of Phytoplankton Distributions in the Chukchi Sea

Sam Laney, Biology


2014 COI Funded Project


New observational technologies can provide much-needed insight into long-term responses of coastal Arctic ecosystems to climate-driven change. Over the past seven years PI Laney has been collecting what is arguably now the most comprehensive and synoptic observational data set of phytoplankton taxonomic distributions in the coastal Chukchi Sea. WHOI’s Coastal Ocean Institute is being asked to support an effort to take these unique observational data and use them to generate a regional Chukchi climatology of phytoplankton taxonomic distributions for this important coastal ecosystem. This effort has strong scientific merit given that phytoplankton are important organisms to monitor in a climate context. Different taxa respond differently to changes in ocean illumination and chemistry, and certain phytoplankton taxa may therefore be potentially valuable indicator species for climate-driven responses. This effort also has a significant role in supporting a new decade-scale initiative the PI wishes to develop, to encourage NSF to incorporate autonomous phytoplankton sampling systems on its Arctic-capable research vessels. Aspects of spatial and temporal ecosystem variability in the Chukchi Sea that would be seen in this climatology would provide a compelling rationale for a long-term project to add and support similar field instrumentation to continue to monitor the distribution of primary producers in coastal Arctic ecosystems.