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Beneath Arctic ice, scientists find an ecosystem never imagined (+video)

Scientists report finding a massive bloom of phytoplankton hidden under Arctic ice, suggesting that, as the ice thins and melts, the region is becoming vastly more biologically productive. 

Dr Oliver Wurl is part of the Catlin Arctic Survey team for 2011, which is being supported once more by the WWF Global Arctic Programme. He is researching the impact of ocean acidification on the "forests of the oceans" -- phytoplankton (a form of algae), and explains his experiments in this video.
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Scientists have discovered a vast pea-soup-green bloom of tiny plant-like marine organisms under Arctic Ocean ice. The bloom represents an enormous, and until now, unknown reservoir of food for marine life in frigid waters at the top of the world.

These waters, in sum, appear to be far more biologically productive than previously believed.

"This wasn't just any phytoplankton bloom," says Kevin Arrigo, a Stanford University marine scientist and lead author of the study. "It was literally the most intense phytoplankton bloom I've ever seen in my 25 years of doing this type of research" in oceans around the world.

The scientists sampled only a relatively small section of ice above the Arctic basin's continental shelves last summer. But the findings suggest that, where the mix of nutrients and sunlight are right, other areas around the basin could be highly productive as well, the researchers say.

The discovery could help explain why previous groups observing open water concluded that the region wasn't hot spot of biological productivity. And it could explain how the ocean has been absorbing larger quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere than data could verify, the researchers suggest.


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