The Arctic Ocean (AO) is being rapidly transformed by global warming, but its biodiversity remains understudied for many planktonic organisms, in particular for unicellular eukaryotes that play pivotal roles in marine food webs and biogeochemical cycles. The aim of this study was to characterize the biogeographic ranges of species that comprise the contemporary pool of unicellular eukaryotes in the AO as a first step toward understanding mechanisms that structure these communities and identifying potential target species for monitoring. Leveraging the Tara Oceans DNA metabarcoding data, we mapped the global distributions of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) found on Arctic shelves into five biogeographic categories, identified biogeographic indicators, and inferred the degree to which AO communities of unicellular eukaryotes share members with assemblages from lower latitudes. Arctic/Polar indicator OTUs, as well as some globally ubiquitous OTUs, dominated the detection and abundance of DNA reads in the Arctic samples. OTUs detected only in Arctic samples (Arctic-exclusives) showed restricted distribution with relatively low abundances, accounting for 10–16% of the total Arctic OTU pool. OTUs with high abundances in tropical and/or temperate latitudes (non-Polar indicators) were also found in the AO but mainly at its periphery. We observed a large change in community taxonomic composition across the Atlantic-Arctic continuum, supporting the idea that advection and environmental filtering are important processes that shape plankton assemblages in the AO. Altogether, this study highlights the connectivity between the AO and other oceans, and provides a framework for monitoring and assessing future changes in this vulnerable ecosystem.

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Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

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Staff publications

Federico M. Ibarbalz, Nicolas Henry, Frédéric Mahé, Mathieu Ardyna, Adriana Zingone, Eleonora Scalco, … Lee Karp-Boss. (2023). Pan-Arctic plankton community structure and its global connectivity. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 11(1).