Scientists Discover Plankton Under the Ice of the Arctic Ocean


For the first time scientists have discovered tiny organisms under the Arctic ice. They suggest that, as the Arctic ice becomes thinner, the region may produce plankton, plants and other organisms. The waters of the Arctic may contain more life than they had thought before.

Although the scientists have studied only a small part of the Arctic they think that in certain areas, where there is enough sunlight and food, organisms find the right place to develop. This new discovery could also explain why the oceans have swallowed up more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they could explain.

Under ice phytoplankton cannot be seen by satellites. Up to now scientists have only been able to do research in the summer months, in which they studied what was happening in the waters of the Arctic. Because organisms need light to grow they concentrated their search in open water areas. Normally there is very little or no life under the thick ice sheets of the Arctic because only one percent of the sunlight can manage to get through.

Map of the Arctic region - The green areas show where large amount of plankton are found

Plankton in the world's oceans

With the help of an icebreaker scientists explored the thick ice-covered regions and observed massive green blooms of phytoplankton, four times more than in the open ocean. They conclude that enough nutrients have always been there but what was missing was sunlight.

In the last 30 years ice has been melting in the Arctic at a rapid pace.  The amount of fresh snow that has covered the ice sheets has also gone down. As more and more sunlight reaches the water under the ice more plankton can grow, perhaps even ten times more than can be found in the open ocean.

Scientists have also found out that during the summer the Arctic Ocean attracts very much CO2. They can now explain this because water plants absorb CO2 just like land plants do.

According to the scientific data, continued global warming could make phytoplankton grow throughout the year. This, however, could also lead to a change of marine life in the region. Some fish migrate to the cold waters of the Arctic when they cannot find food anywhere else.



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  • absorb = take in
  • according to = as shown by …
  • although = while
  • amount = how much of something
  • attract = pulls to it
  • bloom = here: when large amounts of plankton gets together the water becomes green
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals or people breathe out  or when carbon is burned in the air
  • certain = special
  • CO2 = carbon dioxide
  • concentrate = focus on
  • conclude = to come to a result
  • contain = have
  • data = information
  • develop = grow
  • discover = to find for the first time
  • ice sheet = areas of thick ice that covers the poles
  • icebreaker = a ship that can cut through ice-covered oceans
  • manage = somehow do something
  • marine = about the sea and the organisms that live there
  • melt = when ice turns to water
  • migrate = to travel regularly to a certain place in order to find food or have babies
  • nutrient = food that gives plants and animals what they need to live
  • observe = watch
  • organism = an animal, plant , person or anything else that is living
  • perhaps = maybe
  • phytoplankton = organisms that float on the surface of the ocean
  • plankton = very small forms of plant and animal life that live in water
  • rapid pace = very quickly
  • research = study, observe
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in the laboratory
  • suggest = think
  • swallow up = take in
  • throughout = all over