URI oceanographer: As climate changes, Alaska fisheries may depend on winter survival of plankton

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Image courtesy of: James Brooks

University of Rhode Island oceanographer Robert Campbell, a member of the Bering Sea Project funded by the North Pacific Research Board and the National Science Foundation, said that changes in the timing of the melting of sea ice in spring was expected to have far-reaching effects on the health of the ecosystem, but the importance of winter plankton survival was unexpected.

The health of the Bering Sea fisheries off the coast of Alaska depend largely on the plankton blooms that occur as the sea ice retreats in spring. Sunlight causes phytoplankton to bloom, which provides food to copepods and other zooplankton that are fed upon by fish, crabs and other commercial species.