We investigated the physical conditions of the Spring pack ice environment at Terra Nova Bay to understand their influence on the structure and physiology of sympagic microalgae. Bio-optical methods were used to study the availability and spectral quality of solar radiation, both inside and underneath the ice cover. Pack ice thickness was around 2.5 m, with a temperature between −2 and −7°C. On average, only 1.4% of surface PAR penetrated to the bottom ice and less than 0.6% below platelet ice level. Surface UV-B radiation under the bottom ice was 0.2–0.4%. Biomass concentrations up to 2400 mg Chl a m−3, dominated by two species of diatoms (Entomoneis kjellmannii and Nitschia cf. stellata), showed marked spatial and temporal patterns. Maximum values were in the platelet ice during the first half of November, and in the bottom ice two weeks later. Strong shade adaptation characteristics emerged clearly and explained the relevant abundance of microalgae within the sea ice, with specific absorption coefficients (a*) as low as 0.005 m2 (mg Chl a)−1 and the photo-acclimation index (Ek) in the range of in situ irradiance. The biomass specific production values were low, around 0.12–0.13 mg C mg Chl a−1 h−1. The hypothesis suggesting bottom ice colonization by platelet ice microalgae is supported here.
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