CERC: Arctic Geomicrobiology and Climate Change

Location or Study Area: Marine Arctic areas
Submitted by: Søren Rysgaard


This Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) research program focuses on geomicrobial transformations as they occur in Arctic sea ice and sediments, including the regeneration of nutrients required by primary producers and thus the health of all other inhabitants of the Arctic marine system. Recent evidence suggests that microbial activity and chemical transformations within sea ice greatly influence inorganic carbonate chemistry, playing an important role in regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) uptake by Arctic seas. The objective of the program is to investigate and quantify the importance of these fundamental microbial activities using state-of-the-art assessment techniques in a comprehensive three-pronged approach of ice tank, in situ, and modelling studies. Combining experimental ice tank and in situ studies will provide important new insight into the regulation of these processes, their seasonal and geographical distribution, and how they are coupled between surface ocean and seafloor. Modelling activities will range from small-scale studies within the sea ice and sediment compartments to local coastal regions of strategic importance and the large-scale systems of the Arctic Ocean and neighbouring seas. This comprehensive effort will markedly improve current knowledge of the magnitude and regulation of microbial activity and biogeochemical processes within the context of their physical/chemical environments. The research has broad economic and environmental impacts as an increased understanding of the microbially mediated nutrient regulation of primary production is a prerequisite to understanding the future for higher organisms in Arctic marine ecosystems and the effects of a changing sea ice environment.

Project Description

The Arctic has experienced unprecedented variability in both the rates and magnitudes of change in the cryosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere, dependent ecosystem function variability, increased industrial development, and concomitant globalization of local economies. We intend to understand the causes of, and consequences flowing from, alterations in sea ice dynamic and thermodynamic processes in the Northern Hemisphere. The CERC unit consists of 17 faculty members, the CERC nominee, 3 new University-funded tenure track hires, 6 new CERC and partner funded PDF and research associate positions, over 100 graduate students, and numerous national, international, and northern partners.

We address 4 key research questions and 2 objectives:

  1. What are the relative contributions of dynamic and thermodynamic forcing to the observed change in sea ice areal extent and thickness and how is this related to intra- and extra-Arctic climate processes, variability, and change?
  2. What are the consequences of change in Question 1 on biogeochemical cycling, including carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorous, oxygen, and their stable isotopes?
  3. What are the consequences of changes in Questions 1 and 2 on ecosystem function, examined throughout the complete trophic structure: beginning with microbial processes, primary and secondary production, through to apex predators; and on habitat structure: benthic, pelagic, epontic, and within the ocean–sea-ice–atmosphere (OSA) interface?
  4. What are the consequences of change on release, transport, and biological impact of chemical contaminants, including both organic and inorganic contaminants, across Arctic biotic and abiotic environmental interfaces?

Objective 1: To produce models of coupled physical-biological processes examined in Questions 1 through 4 as a means of making the CERC unit science predictive and able to inform future environmental conditions.

Objective 2: To provide and communicate a knowledge base upon which public policy development can build to address the key issues facing the Canadian Arctic.






Principal Investigators (CEOS): Dr. Søren Rysgaard

UM Faculty: David Barber, Tim Papakyriakou, Feiyue Wany, Gary Stern, Zou Zou Kuzyk, Jens Ehn, CJ Mundy, Igor Dmitrenko, Norman Halden, Brooke Milne, John Iacozza, Ryan Galley, Massayo Ogi

Funding/Other Support

Canada Excellence Research Chair program & Canada Foundation for Innovation, CRC, NSERC, Province of Manitoba, ArcticNet NCE, MB Hydro, mulitple private sector companies

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