German and US scientists around Allan Cembella, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany, studied on board the research ship MARIA S. MERIAN the extent to which the strong inflow of meltwater into the fjords along Greenland’s west coast are altering the chemical composition of the seawater and thus the living conditions for algae and other microorganisms.
Glacial ice is melting at an unprecedented speed and is releasing freshwater and substances that have been enclosed in the Arctic ice for hundreds if not for thousands of years.
In accordance with previous measurements in the Disko bay, there has been a clear rise in water temperature at a depth of 200 m due to changes in ocean currents in the 90s. This warm water probably gets underneath the tips of glaciers where it can additionally promote glacial melting.
The habitats especially of the species that live in flat coastal waters are expected to shift, because the ice cover has lately always melted during the summer. This affects fish stocks, plankton, several species living on the sea bed, sea birds, marine mammals, and ultimately also humans in the same way.
For the first time a documentation of possible changes in the chemical composition of the fjord water and of the bodies of water in the coastal areas of Greenland and Iceland have been performed to draw conclusions about possible effects on symbioses in the ocean. Samples of water were taken from areas close to the glaciers and coast in the transition zone to the open sea (pictured).
These studies will help to understand whether and to what extent widespread glacial melting provides the chemical and physical foundations for harmful algal blooms. These are expected to occure more frequently in the Arctic in the course of warming.
Image: © Daniela Voss, University of Oldenburg, Germany
- Alfred Wegener Institute, one of the 18 research centres of the Helmholtz Association, Germany