Stronger Atlantic currents drive temperate species to migrate towards the Artic Ocean


The Arctic Ocean increasingly resembles the Atlantic, not only regarding its temperature but also the species that live there. However, scientists from the CNRS and Université Laval, Quebec1 showed that an unprecedented strengthening of Atlantic currents is playing a major role in this phenomenon called ‘Atlantification’. The research team studied Emiliania huxleyi, a marine microalgae that typically lives in temperate waters at lower latitudes. A specific feature of this organism is that it has a calcareous shell that reflects light so well that its massive development makes the ocean surface turquoise over large areas, a phenomenon that can be seen from space.  As a result, the scientists were able to use satellite images to show that the strengthening of Atlantic currents largely explains the increased presence of temperate species such as Emiliania huxleyi in the Arctic Ocean. The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications (6 April 2020).


Artist’s drawing of the calcareous shell of Emiliania huxleyi, based on a scanning electron microscope (SEM) image. © Laure Vilgrain.
Satellite image of an Emiliania huxleyi bloom in late summer 2011 in the southern Barents Sea. © NASA


  • 1Scientists working in the Takuvik International Research Laboratory (CNRS/Université de Laval), the Laboratoire d'Océanographie et du Climat : Expérimentations et Approches Numériques (LOCEAN, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle/CNRS/IRD/Sorbonne Université) and the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche-sur-Mer (CNRS/Sorbonne Université).

Faster Atlantic currents drive poleward expansion of temperate phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean. L. Oziel, A.Baudena, M.Ardyna, P.Massicotte, A.Randelhoff, J.-B. Sallée, R. B.Ingvaldsen, E. Devred & M.Babin. Nature communications, 6 april 2020.


Laurent Oziel
postdoctoral researcher
Marcel Babin
CNRS and Université Laval researcher
Clara Barrau
CNRS Press Officer