Scientists Discover Thriving Microscopic Plant Garden Under Arctic Ice

By Meera Dolasia on June 14, 2012

CCSS NAS-3 NAS-4 Word Search

Earlier this month, a team of NASA scientists revealed the presence of a thriving bloom of phytoplankton underneath three feet of ice in the Arctic - A phenomenon that researchers say is as astonishing as finding a rainforest, in the middle of a desert.

The discovery was made during a 2011 NASA sponsored expedition undertaken by some of the world's most prominent scientists. Called ICESCAPE (Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment) its mission was to find ways to improve NASA's remote monitoring of the changes that are occurring in the Arctic ice pack due to global warming.

Led by Stanford Professor Kevin Arrigo, the team was conducting their research north of the Bering Strait, in the Chukchi Sea ice pack - An area of the Arctic not known to sustain life due to the thickness of the ice. So you can only imagine their surprise when their fluorometer, a measuring device used to gauge water content in algae, suddenly began lighting up fiercely. At first, they thought the device was emitting false signals.

However, when they looked beneath the ice pack they discovered not a clump of the green stuff, but a colossal forest that stretched out for 62 miles (100km). It was so lush and green that it reminded the scientists of pea soup!

Tests of the surrounding water and species of algae confirmed that the plants had not spread from the surrounding areas, but actually originated underneath the ice.

While amazing, the reason behind this blooming garden is not so heartening. Scientists believe that the growth of this lush forest of the microscopic single-celled organisms can be attributed to the fact that sunlight is now able to penetrate through the Arctic Sea ice, a situation caused by global warming.

Thanks to the recent warming trend, the traditional multi-layer ice pack that covered this region of the Arctic has been replaced by a thinner, single-year Polar Ice, which allows the sunlight to permeate through. Further exacerbating this situation is the fairly recent phenomenon of ice pools on the ice packs during the warmer months of June and July. They behave like lenses allowing over 50% of the light to pass through. At the same time, the layer of ice that lies underneath acts as a deterrent to the sun's harmful Ultra Violet rays, helping the tiny organisms flourish, even further.

As if all these factors are not enough, the scientists also discovered that a shift in Arctic winds in the past few years has resulted in bringing extra nutrients to the area. The icing on the cake of course is the 24-hour sunlight enjoyed by the region, during the summer months.

The researchers believe that if the current global warming trends continue, algae gardens will become a common occurrence, encompassing as much as 25% of the Arctic seas, within a few years. This is turn, will shift the Arctic ecosystem as we know it today - Benefiting some species while destroying others. Whether it will be a good change or not, is something only time will tell. Unfortunately unless global warming trends turnaround soon, not much can be done to reverse this situation.

Resources: Sciencedaily.com, Stanford.edu.news, cbc.ca

Share by EmailShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TwitterShare on tumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Edmodo
58 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • fatimaflores
    fatimafloresMonday, June 2, 2014 at 9:30 am
    I think this article was amazing to me
    • enderkid5000
      enderkid5000Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 3:44 am
      This is a awesome article but people should really do something about global warming
      • monahajahnash
        monahajahnashMonday, April 28, 2014 at 9:33 am
        I think that cool to read
        • monahajahnash
          monahajahnashThursday, May 1, 2014 at 9:26 am
          I agree to what is say about the normal and the bloom I think it is every cool that it blooms and that is can turn green and blue water
        • TiAnAMonday, May 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm
          I aM uSiNg ThIs FoR gLoBaL wArMmInG
          • NO Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 11:14 am
            this is a good artical
            • JustinWednesday, March 13, 2013 at 10:20 am
              I don't like global warming darnit
              • jacobThursday, December 27, 2012 at 11:48 am
                this is cool i am going to use this as my current event
                • msilva8077
                  msilva8077Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 12:24 pm
                  awesome
                • sciencefun
                  sciencefunSaturday, September 15, 2012 at 9:39 am
                  WOW global warming is coming badly
                  • CaseMonday, August 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm
                    This is cool but too bad its caused by global warming
                    • otter
                      otterSaturday, October 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm
                      Yeah!
                    • CaseMonday, August 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm
                      Awesome

                      Vocabulary

                      attributeddeterrentexacerbatingfluorometergaugehearteningpermeatephenomenonphytoplankton

                      Most Popular Articles

                      The World's Deepest Pool Is Scarily . . . Deep!
                      Making Sense Of The Ebola Virus
                      Candy That Doesn't Cause Cavities? Sweet!
                      The World's Deepest Pool Is Scarily . . . Deep!
                      Minecraft As A Mandatory Subject In School? Sweet!
                      Boo Mania Sweeps Over America (And The World)!
                      Are You Ready To 'Gangnam Style'?
                      Video Of The Week - If Frozen Was A Horror Movie . . .

                      Latest Comments

                      Hinaaaaaa wrote:

                      It's not worth it for me
                      Trouble – The Twelve Million Dol...

                      FlufflePuff(mlp wrote:

                      aww so cute
                      Dorset's Pint-Sized 'Mayor' Lose...

                      jinxshadow
                      jinxshadow wrote:

                      I completly miss it :'( I wante...
                      Get Ready For 2014's Second And ...

                      ALA