Primary production of the northern Barents Sea

  • Else Nøst Hegseth


The majority of the arctic waters are only seasonally ice covered; the northern Barents Sea, where freezing starts at 80 to 81°N in September, is one such area. In March, the ice cover reaches its greatest extension (74-75°N). Melting is particularly rapid in June and July, and by August the Barents Sea may be ice free. The pelagic productive season is rather short, 3 to 3.5 months in the northern part of the Barents Sea (north of the Polar Front, 75°N), and is able to sustain an open water production during only half of this time when a substantial part of the area is free of ice. Ice algal production starts in March and terminates during the rapid melting season in June and July, thus equalling the pelagic production season in duration. This paper presents the first in situ measurements of both pelagic and ice-related production in the northern Barents Sea: pelagic production in summer after melting has started and more open water has become accessible, and ice production in spring before the ice cover melts. Judged by the developmental stage of the plankton populations, the northern Barents Sea consists of several sub-areas with different phytoplankton situations. Estimates of both daily and annual carbon production have been based on in situ measurements. Although there are few sampling stations (6 phytoplankton stations and 8 ice-algae stations), the measurements represent both pelagic bloom and non-bloom conditions and ice algal day and night production. The annual production in ice was estimated to 5.3 g Cm-2, compared to the pelagic production of 25 to 30 g Cm-2 south of Kvitøya and 12 to 15 g Cm-2 further north. According to these estimates ice production thus constitutes 16% to 22% of the total primary production of the northern Barents Sea, depending on the extent of ice-free areas.


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How to Cite
Nøst Hegseth, E. (1998). Primary production of the northern Barents Sea. Polar Research, 17(2), 113-123.
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