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Climate Change-Driven Hudson Bay Phytoplankton Phenology and Composition


Phytoplankton form the base of the marine food chain and therefore have a significant effect on all other ocean-dependent species, from fish to birds and marine mammals. Hudson Bay is an area where the physical factors that affect phytoplankton, such as ice break-up (which affects the light available for phytoplankton growth), storms, and surface warming is experiencing significant change as a result of our fluctuating climate. This project will use data on how the composition of phytoplankton populations in Hudson Bay have changed since 1975 in order to understand how changes in physical factors are likely to affect populations that occur in higher, Northern environments.

Results: Researchers collected and analyzed phytoplankton data from recent research cruises, automated moorings, and remote sensing, as well as historical data. The results showed a trend of springtime phytoplankton blooms occurring earlier in the season, which is likely due to earlier ice breakup. The fall bloom was found to be occurring progressively later in the season, most likely resulting from warming waters. In general, there is a small trend towards a higher primary production in the Hudson Bay.

The data collected also showed that the amount of ice algae that provide organic matter and energy to seabed organisms in Hudson Bay is significantly reduced due to changes in ice conditions. For future study, researchers generated a list of specific algae in Hudson Bay that are known to be sensitive to climate change and may impact other organisms. The results from this project will be included in a scientific publication.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Central Canada: Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Freshwater Drainage Basin

Principal Investigator(s)

Pierre Larouche
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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