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Plankton Bloom in Arctic Signals Major Climate Change Impact June 15, 2012
Arctic ice researcher
ICESCAPE researcher Karen Frey taking optical measurements in a melt pond, with the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy in the background.
The recent unprecedented melt of Arctic sea ice during summer appears to be causing significant changes in wildlife across the far north.

One of the first was revealed when scientists found the largest “bloom” of phytoplankton ever seen beneath an ice shelf.

A Stanford University scientist says it was four times more concentrated than any blooms found in the open ocean, and could mark the first major shifts to the Arctic ecosystem due to climate change.

Smaller blooms have probably always been a part of the Arctic, but researchers say they are now happening earlier in the summer because of the more rapid melt of the ice pack.

Phytoplankton form the base of the Arctic food web, affecting the health and numbers of wildlife from fish and birds to polar bears.

Scientists say they will be watching to see how well the creatures adjust to the Arctic’s new environmental reality.

Photo: NASA Goddard - Kathryn Hansen