Monitoring abiotic degradation in sinking versus suspended Arctic sea ice algae during a spring ice melt using specific lipid oxidation tracers
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The abiotic degradation state of sea ice algae released during a late spring ice melt process was determined by sampling the underlying waters and measuring certain well-known algal lipids and their oxidation products, including those derived from epi-brassicasterol, 24-methylenecholesterol, palmitoleic acid and the phytyl side-chain of chlorophyll. More specifically, parent lipids and some of their oxidation products were quantified in suspended (collected by filtration) and sinking (collected with sediment traps at 5 and 30 m) particles from Resolute Passage (Canada) during a period of spring ice melt in 2012 and the outcomes compared with those obtained from related sea ice samples analyzed previously. Our data show that suspended cells in the near surface waters appeared to be only very weakly affected by photooxidative processes, likely indicative of a community of unaggregated living cells with high seeding potential for further growth. In contrast, we attribute the strong photooxidation state of the organic matter in the sediment traps deployed at 5 m to the presence of senescent and somewhat aggregated sea ice algae that descended only relatively slowly within the euphotic zone, and was thus susceptible to photochemical degradation. On the other hand, the increased abiotic preservation of the sinking material collected in the sediment traps deployed at 30 m, likely reflected more highly aggregated senescent sea ice algae that settled sufficiently rapidly out of the euphotic zone to avoid significant photooxidation. This better-preserved sinking material in the deeper sediment traps may therefore contribute more strongly to the underlying sediments. A three-component conceptual scheme summarizing the abiotic behavior of Arctic sea ice algae in underlying waters is proposed.
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