However, researchers said it remains unclear whether such fertility could have unexpected downsides for life in the Arctic, The Christian Monitor said.
The single-celled organisms in question are known as phytoplankton, which possess the green pigment chlorophyll just as plants do, helping them live off sunlight.
Phytoplankton blooms spring up in the Arctic during the summer, when the sun is constantly above the horizon.
“As someone who has been studying polar marine ecosystems for 25 years, I had always thought that the idea of under-ice phytoplankton blooms was nonsense,” the website quoted researcher Kevin Arrigo, a biological oceanographer at Stanford University in California, as saying.
Researchers noted that the organism grows more rapidly under thick layers of ice.
“The idea that phytoplankton can not only bloom under 3-foot-thick ice but that they can reach numbers that put their open-water counterparts to shame was a complete surprise,” Arrigo told OurAmazingPlanet. “It means we have to rethink many of our ideas about how the Arctic Ocean ecosystems function.”
Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University, the leader of the ICESCAPE (Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment) mission, said:
“If someone had asked me before the expedition whether we would see under-ice blooms, I would have told them it was impossible. This discovery was a complete surprise…. At this point we don’t know whether these rich phytoplankton blooms have been happening in the Arctic for a long time and we just haven’t observed them before. These blooms could become more widespread in the future, however, if the Arctic sea ice cover continues to thin.”
The ICESCAPE project’s findings were announced Thursday and published in the journal Science.