The Effects of Climate Change on Ice Algae



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The Effects of Climate Change on Ice Algae

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The Effects of Climate Change on Ice Algae


Ice algae play a key function in the Arctic ecosystem. Its growth is, however, threatened by the rapid effects of climate change. This is done by the temperature altering with the wideness, timing and the retreat of the sea-ice. The climatic changes increase the temperature of the sea through the melting of the ice hence warming the seawater. The future of the ice algae is uncertain due to the constant challenges the climate has on its survival. This research investigates how temperature and salinity affect the growth of Nitzschia lecointei, a sea-ice diatom. It focuses on finding out how climate change impacts the ice algae. Due to the sea algae being components of the food web, any alteration in temperature and salinity can adversely affect it, leading to the melting of the sea ice.


Ice algae form a large percentage of the sea ice. Sea ice acts as a home the marine algae. These ice algae serve as their source of food. However, the growth of the ice algae is limited due to seasonal light at the sea ice (“Climate Change and Harmful Algal Blooms | US EPA”, 2021). Research shows that the induction of temperature on the ice algae has severe impacts on its productivity. Photosynthetic Availability Radiance, for instances, has significant implications on the growth of the ice algae. There is a high possibility of interruption of normal growth activities in the sea during high latitudes. The sunlight prevents the normal growth of the algae.  The algae tend to be more productive in warmer and less salty ice. This allows for easier permeability. The rate at which algae production is reducing is very high. This is attributed to the frequent changes in the climatic changes. The high temperatures reduce the productivity of the algae.

Increased temperatures in the sea lead to shifting the physicochemical properties, primarily in the arctic environs. Due to the anthropogenic carbon dioxide uptake in the oceans, the marine food web is forced to change. Increased irradiance due to the sea ice becoming thinner reduces the quality of the sea-ice algae food (Fransson et al., 2021). This research focuses on determining how the rise in temperature and reduced salinity both impacts the organic structure of the Antarctic sea-ice Nitzschia lecointei diatom but not the pressure of the carbon dioxide (2021). Experiments were presented and conclusion drawn from the tests.

Materials and Methods

Temperature and Salinity Trial

The   Nitzschia lecointei diatom collected from the Amundsen Sea was isolated and cultured at a salinity of 32 and a temperature of -18 degrees. There was the application of orthogonal experimental design in illustrating this trial (2021). The division and dilution of the original culture with f/2 medium made from three various salinity of the artificial sea.  This was performed until the appropriate salinity was achieved. There was the application of five steps during the dilution, completed within 22hours, with each step presenting an approximation reduction of between 3 to 5 salinity (Fransson et al., 2021). After that, there was the division of the culture into two baths with varying temperature. The trial took 7days, aided by fluorescent tubes (GE Polylux XLR 18 W/860) under an 18:6 h light: dark cycle at 30 μmol photons m–2 s–1 active photosynthetic radiation (PAR 400–700 nm). The duration was chosen for detection of growth while limiting the nutrients from being used up. The irradiance level was taken and weighed by the parameter. To enhance equal irradiance, there was a constant daily rotation of the two bottles. There was also the monitoring of the temperature throughout the trial.


Growth Rate

Interaction between temperature and salinity greatly affected the Nitzschia lecointei due to faster rates at 3 °C compared to −1.8 °C. After the seven days, there was an increased cell density (2021). There was a maximum density increase of 1.9 × 105 cells mL–1  and  0.9 × 105 cells mL–1  under the temperatures of    3 °C and   −1.8 °C, respectively. There was also a limited growth at a salinity of 10.

Biochemical Composition

Throughout the trial, the content of the cellular carbon was generally higher. Moreover, there was a higher carbon content at   −1.8 °C than at 3 °C, which was also affected by the salinity (2021). Temperature and salinity also affected the content of the cellular nitrogen. There was a variation in carbohydrate content during growth due to the effects of saltiness. Both the temperature and the salinity affected the content of the cellular fatty acids (Fransson et al., 2021). Both the temperature and the salinity also significantly impacted the TBARS, a lipid peroxidation indicator in cells.


This study gives an insight on how both the temperature and the salinity were used to show how sea-ice diatom could react to summer ice melt when cells are exposed under various salinities within the ice.  The temperature is also a facilitator in the study (Fransson et al., 2021).  The results presented showed that increased temperature and reduced salinity alters the normal growth of the cell. Therefore, Nitzschia lecointei biological and biochemical composition has a more significant impact when exposed to rapid temperature and salinity changes.

The growth was faster when the temperature was near its optimal level, hence altering its biochemical composition. This research suggests that diatom growth is highly affected by the alteration in temperature (“Climate Change and Harmful Algal Blooms | US EPA”, 2021). Reduction in temperature and increased salinity level weakens the sea-ice algae photosynthetic capacity during ice formation. Ice diatoms growth are therefore reduced by increasing salinity.

























Climate Change and Harmful Algal Blooms | US EPA. US EPA. (2021). Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

(2021). Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

Fransson, A., Chierici, M., Nomura, D., Granskog, M., Kristiansen, S., Martma, T., & Nehrke, G. (2021). Influence of glacial water and carbonate minerals on wintertime sea-ice biogeochemistry and the CO2 system in an Arctic fjord in Svalbard. Retrieved 5 May 2021, from.


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