Smallest Algae Thrive As the Arctic Ocean Freshens

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Science  23 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5952, pp. 539
DOI: 10.1126/science.1179798

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As climate changes and the upper Arctic Ocean receives more heat and fresh water, it becomes more difficult for mixing processes to deliver nutrients from depth to the surface for phytoplankton growth. Competitive advantage will presumably accrue to small cells because they are more effective in acquiring nutrients and less susceptible to gravitational settling than large cells. Since 2004, we have discerned an increase in the smallest algae and bacteria along with a concomitant decrease in somewhat larger algae. If this trend toward a community of smaller cells is sustained, it may lead to reduced biological production at higher trophic levels.

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