A decadal perspective on north water microbial eukaryotes

The North Water region, between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, with high populations of marine birds and mammals, is an Arctic icon. Due to climate related changes, seasonal patterns in water column primary production are changing but the implications for the planktonic microbial eukaryote communities that support the ecosystem are unknown. Here we report microbial community phenology in samples collected over 12 years (2005–2018) from July to October and analysed using high throughput 18S rRNA V4 amplicon sequencing. Community composition was tied to seasonality with summer communities more variable than distinct October communities. In summer, sentinel pan-Arctic species, including a diatom in the Chaetoceros socialis-gelidus complex and the picochlorophyte Micromonas polaris dominated phytoplankton and were summer specialists. In autumn, uncultured undescribed open water dinoflagellates were favored, and their ubiquity suggests they are sentinels of arctic autumn conditions.

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Fig: Map of the sampling region. Circulation within the North Water region from Melling et al.. Light blue arrows show colder and less salty surface water and red arrows display warmer and saltier surface water. Samples are from the Greenland side (Stn115) and the Canadian side (Stn101 and Stn105). West Greenland current (WG).

Despite the input of nutrients into surface waters, autumn chlorophyll concentrations remained low, refuting projected scenarios that longer ice-free seasons are synonymous with high autumn production and a diatom dominated bloom. Overall, the summer sentinel microbial taxa are persisting, and a subset oceanic dinoflagellate should be monitored for possible ecosystem shifts as later autumn ice formation becomes prevalent elsewhere.

Freyria, N.J., Joli, N. & Lovejoy, C. A decadal perspective on north water microbial eukaryotes as Arctic Ocean sentinels. Sci Rep 11,8413 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-87906-4

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