Shine a light: under-ice light and its ecological implications in a changing Arctic Ocean

Giulia Castellani, Gaëlle Veyssière, Michael Karcher, Julienne Stroeve, S. Neil Banas, A. Heather Bouman, S. Andrew Brierley, Stacey Connan, Finlo Cottier, Fabian Große, Laura Hobbs, Christian Katlein, Bonnie Light, David McKee, Andrew Orkney, Roland Proud, Vibe Schourup-Kristensen

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The Arctic marine ecosystem is shaped by the seasonality of the solar cycle, spanning from 24-h light at the sea surface in summer to 24-h darkness in winter. The amount of light available for under-ice ecosystems is the result of different physical and biological processes that affect its path through atmosphere, snow, sea ice and water. In this article, we review the present state of knowledge of the abiotic (clouds, sea ice, snow, suspended matter) and biotic (sea ice algae and phytoplankton) controls on the underwater light field. We focus on how the available light affects the seasonal cycle of primary production (sympagic and pelagic) and discuss the sensitivity of ecosystems to changes in the light field based on model simulations. Lastly, we discuss predicted future changes in under-ice light as a consequence of climate change and their potential ecological implications, with the aim of providing a guide for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
VolumeFirst Online
Early online date25 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Nov 2021


  • Arctic ecosystem
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Light transmission
  • Phytoplankton
  • Primary production
  • Transmission Phytoplankton Primary production


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