We present a high-resolution (ca. 50 years) biomarker-based reconstruction of seasonal sea ice conditions for the West Svalbard continental margin covering the last ca. 2k years. Our reconstruction is based on the distributions of sea ice algal (IP25) and phytoplankton (brassicasterol and HBI III) lipids in marine sediment core MSM5/5-712-1 retrieved in 2007. The individual and combined (PIP25) temporal profiles, together with estimates of spring sea ice concentration [SpSIC (%)] based on a recent calibration, suggest that sea ice conditions during the interval ca. 50–1700 AD may not have been as variable as described in previous reconstructions, with SpSIC generally in the range ca. 35–45 %. A slight enhancement in SpSIC (ca. 50 %) was identified at ca. 1600 AD, contemporaneous with the Little Ice Age, before declining steadily over the subsequent ca. 400 years to near-modern values (ca. 25 %). In contrast to these spring conditions, our data suggest that surface waters during summer months were ice free for the entire record. The decline in SpSIC in recent centuries is consistent with the known retreat of the winter ice margin from documentary sea ice records. This decrease in sea ice is possibly attributed to enhanced inflow of warm water delivered by the North Atlantic Current and/or increasing air temperatures, as shown in previous marine and terrestrial records. Comparison of our biomarker-based sea ice reconstruction with one obtained previously based on dinocyst distributions in a core from a similar location reveals partial agreement in the early–mid part of the records (ca. 50–1700 AD), but a notable divergence in the most recent ca. 300 years. We hypothesise that this divergence likely reflects the individual signatures of each proxy method, especially as the biomarker-based SpSIC estimates during this interval (<25 %) are much lower than the threshold level (>50 % sea ice cover) used for the dinocyst approach. Alternatively, divergence between outcomes may indicate seasonality shifts in sea ice conditions, such that a combined biomarker-dinocyst approach in future studies might provide further insights into this important parameter.



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School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences