The impact of ice melting on bacterioplankton in the Arctic Ocean

Maria Montserrat Sala, Jesús M. Arrieta, Julia A. Boras, Carlos M. Duarte, Dolors Vaqué

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Global warming and the associated ice melt are leading to an increase in the organic carbon in the Arctic Ocean. We evaluated the effects of ice melt on bacterioplankton at 21 stations in the Greenland Sea and Arctic Ocean in the summer of 2007, when a historical minimum of Arctic ice coverage was measured. Polar Surface Waters, which have a low temperature and low salinity and originate mainly from melted ice, contained a very low abundance of bacteria (7.01 × 105 ± 2.20 × 105 cells ml-1); however, these bacteria had high specific bacterial production (2.40 ± 1.61 fmol C bac-1 d-1) compared to those in Atlantic Waters. Specifically, bacterioplankton in Polar Surface Waters showed a preference for utilizing carbohydrates and had significantly higher specific activities of the glycosidases assayed, i. e. β-glucosidase, xylosidase, arabinosidase and cellobiosidase. Furthermore, bacterioplankton in Polar Sea Waters showed preferential growth on some of the carbohydrates in the Biolog Ecoplate, such as d-cellobiose and N-acetyl-d-glucosamine. Our results suggest that climate change and the associated melting of Arctic ice might induce changes in bacterioplankton functional diversity by enhancing the turnover of carbohydrates. Since organic aggregates are largely composed of polysaccharides, higher solubilization of aggregates might modify the carbon cycle, weaken the biological pump and have biogeochemical and ecological implications for the future Arctic Ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1683-1694
Number of pages12
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments Financial support was provided by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN) projects: ATOS (POL2006-00550/CTM) to C.M.D, STORM (CTM2009-09352) to M.M.S, and MICROVIS (CTM2007-62140) to D.V.J.A.B. was awarded a Ph.D. fellowship by the MICINN (FPU grant). We sincerely thank our fellow scientists on board the R/V and the staff of UTM (CSIC), especially K. Llinás for his technical assistance, and also the crew of the R/V BIO-Hespérides for their collaboration and support during the cruise. We would like to acknowledge M. Álvarez and M. Galífor their fruitful discussions, and to three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on the manuscript.


  • Arctic
  • Bacteria
  • Biolog
  • Ectoenzyme
  • Functional diversity
  • Global change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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