Phytoplankton distribution and nitrogen dynamics in the southwest indian subtropical gyre and Southern Ocean waters

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Abstract

During the 1999 Marion Island Oceanographic Survey (MIOS 4) in late austral summer, a northbound and reciprocal southbound transect were taken along the Southwest Indian and Madagascar Ridge, between the Prince Edward Islands and 31° S. The sections crossed a number of major fronts and smaller mesoscale features and covered a wide productivity spectrum from subtropical to subantarctic waters. Associated with the physical survey were measurements of size fractionated chlorophyll, nutrients and nitrogen (NO 3 , NH 4 and urea) uptake rates. Subtropical waters were characterised by low chlorophyll concentrations (max = 0.27.3 mg m -3 dominated by pico-phytoplankton cells ( > 81%) and very low f-ratios ( < 0.1), indicative of productivity based almost entirely on recycled ammonium and urea. Micro-phytoplankton growth was limited by the availability of NO 3 ( < 0.5 mmol m -3 and Si(OH)4 ( < 1.5 mmol m -3 through strong vertical stratification preventing the upward flux of nutrients into the euphotic zone. Biomass accumulation of small cells was likely controlled by micro-zooplankton grazing. In subantarctic waters, total chlorophyll concentrations increased (max = 0.74 mg m -3 relative to the subtropical waters and larger cells became more prevalent, however smaller phytoplankton cells and low f-ratios ( < 0.14) still dominated, despite sufficient NO 3 availability. The results from this study favour Si(OH)4 limitation, light-limited deep mixing and likely Fe deficiency as the dominant mechanisms controlling significant new production by micro-phytoplankton. The percentage of micro-phytoplankton cells and rates of new production did however increase at oceanic frontal regions (58.6% and 11.22%, respectively), and in the region of the Prince Edward archipelago (61.4% and 14.16%, respectively). Here, water column stabilization and local Fe-enrichment are thought to stimulate phytoplankton growth rates. Open ocean regions such as these provide important areas for local but significant particulate organic carbon export and biological CO2 draw-down in an overall high nutrient low chlorophyll Southern Ocean. © Author(s) 2011.

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APA

Thomalla, S. J., Waldron, H. N., Lucas, M. I., Read, J. F., Ansorge, I. J., & Pakhomov, E. (2011). Phytoplankton distribution and nitrogen dynamics in the southwest indian subtropical gyre and Southern Ocean waters. Ocean Science, 7(1), 113–127. https://doi.org/10.5194/os-7-113-2011

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