BEST-BSIERP Bering Sea Synthesis Project

The impact of sea-ice on bottom-up and top-down controls of crustacean zooplankton and the mediation of carbon and energy flow in the eastern Bering Sea

Over the past decade, continued monitoring and multiple, large-scale, comprehensive research programs have resulted in a wealth of data for the eastern Bering Sea, and provided an unprecedented opportunity to assess how this ecosystem responds to multi-year periods of cold and warm conditions.  It is becoming evident that the presence or absence of sea-ice in spring is the single most important component determining the physical and biological structure of the shelf ecosystem, not only in spring, but through the summer.  Additionally, large crustacean zooplankton (LCZ) appear to be a biological choke-point for the flow of energy through the pelagic ecosystem on the middle shelf.

Associated with a warming climate are predictions of dramatic reductions in sea-ice extent and re-partitioning of carbon and energy flow within this ecosystem.  This synthesis program draws upon the large data sets collected during BEST/BSIERP as well as historical data to address the question: How does the presence or absence of sea-ice over the eastern shelf in spring influence the flow of energy through the pelagic ecosystem in the eastern Bering Sea, particularly the distribution, standing stocks, and trophic roles of large crustacean zooplankton that are of critical importance in the diets of commercially valuable fish, marine birds and cetaceans?

Our approach is to analyze bottom-up and top-down controls of LCZ standing stocks, including climate, physics, primary production, micro-zooplankton production, and predation, and to examine how secondary production is partitioned among top predators under varying climate scenarios.