MEPS 313:73-84 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps313073

Timing of nutrient depletion, diatom dominance and a lower-boundary estimate of export production for Irminger Basin, North Atlantic

Stephanie A. Henson1,2,*, Richard Sanders1, Claire Holeton1,3, John T. Allen1

1 National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
2Present address: School of Marine Sciences, 461D Aubert Hall, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469-5706, USA
3Present address: Department of Plant Ecology, Uppsala University, Villavägen 14, 75 236 Uppsala, Sweden

ABSTRACT: During the North Atlantic spring bloom, a seasonal phytoplankton community succession takes place from diatoms to non-siliceous phytoplankton. Diatoms rely on silica to form their frustules and are out-competed by other species when silica becomes depleted. Diatoms are also expected to contribute significantly to export production in the North Atlantic. We suggest that a lower boundary to export production can be estimated as the component of total production that occurs between the start of the spring bloom and the time when silica becomes depleted. This method has been tested in the Irminger Basin, located between Greenland and Iceland, in the North Atlantic. A technique to estimate silica concentration from satellite-derived sea surface temperature and chlorophyll a concentration has been developed and used to determine silica concentration at high spatial and temporal resolution. This facilitates an estimation of the timing of silica depletion and thus the timing of the transition from a phytoplankton community dominated by diatoms to dominance by non-siliceous species. The timing of the initiation of the bloom, defined as a pronounced and sustained increase in biomass, is estimated from a Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS)-derived chlorophyll a concentration. A lower-boundary estimate of export production is made and, additionally, estimates of the contribution to export production by diatoms and non-diatoms are made by considering silica-to-nitrate drawdown ratios. We estimate export production in this region to be ~60 gC m–2 yr–1, of which diatoms account for ~65%.

KEY WORDS: SeaWiFS · Silica depletion · Export production · Community composition · Spring bloom timing

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