Springtime phytoplankton dynamics in Arctic Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden (Spitsbergen) as a function of glacier proximity
Abstract. The hydrographic properties of the Kongsfjorden–Krossfjorden system (79° N, Spitsbergen) are affected by Atlantic water incursions as well as glacier meltwater runoff. This results in strong physical gradients (temperature, salinity and irradiance) within the fjords. Here, we tested the hypothesis that glaciers affect phytoplankton dynamics as early as the productive spring bloom period. During two campaigns in 2007 (late spring) and 2008 (early spring) we studied hydrographic characteristics and phytoplankton variability along two transects in both fjords, using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-CHEMTAX pigment fingerprinting, molecular fingerprinting (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, or DGGE) and sequencing of 18S rRNA genes. The sheltered inner fjord locations remained colder during spring as opposed to the outer locations. Vertical light attenuation coefficients increased from early spring onwards, at all locations, but in particular at the inner locations. In late spring meltwater input caused stratification of surface waters in both fjords. The inner fjord locations were characterized by overall lower phytoplankton biomass. Furthermore HPLC-CHEMTAX data revealed that diatoms and Phaeocystis sp. were replaced by small nano- and picophytoplankton during late spring, coinciding with low nutrient availability. The innermost stations showed higher relative abundances of nano- and picophytoplankton throughout, notably of cyanophytes and cryptophytes. Molecular fingerprinting revealed a high similarity between inner fjord samples from early spring and late spring samples from all locations, while outer samples from early spring clustered separately. We conclude that glacier influence, mediated by early meltwater input, modifies phytoplankton biomass and composition already during the spring bloom period, in favor of low biomass and small cell size communities. This may affect higher trophic levels especially when regional warming further increases the period and volume of meltwater.