Research News

Taking the Measure of Life in the Ice

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Science  18 Apr 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5311, pp. 353
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5311.353

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Kathryn S. Brown At first glance, the seventh continent's pack ice seems like an eerie wasteland. The interior of an ice floe is much like a frozen honeycomb, laced with channels of slushy brine that teem with algae. Scientists have long known that this "crop" exists, but have had difficulty quantifying it. Now, on page 394, scientists unveil a mathematical model that puts real numbers on the total primary production, or plant life produced through photosynthesis, in pack ice. Among other findings, the model reveals that ice yields one fourth of the primary production in the ice-covered Southern Ocean.