Factors controlling phytoplankton ice-edge blooms in the marginal ice-zone of the northwestern Weddell Sea during sea ice retreat 1988: field observations and mathematical modelling

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Lancelot, Christiane ; Mathot, Sylvie ; Veth, Cornelis ; Baar, Hein de (1993)

The factors controlling phytoplankton bloom development in the marginal ice zone of the northwestern Weddell Sea were investigated during the EPOS (Leg 2) expedition (1988). Measurements were made of physical and chemical processes and biological activities associated with the process of ice-melting and their controlling variables particularly light limitation mediated by vertical stability and ice-cover, trace metal deficiency and grazing pressure. The combined observations and process studies show that the initiation of the phytoplankton bloom, dominated by nanoplanktonic species, was determined by the physical processes operating in the marginal ice zone at the time of ice melting. The additional effects of grazing pressure by protozoa and deep mixing appeared responsible for a rather moderate phytoplankton biomass (4 mg Chl a m−3) with a relatively narrow geographical extent (100–150 km). The rôle of trace constituents, in particular iron, was minor. The importance of each factor during the seasonal development of the ice-edge phytoplankton bloom was studied through modelling of reasonable scenarios of meteorological and biological forcing, making use of a one-dimensional coupled physical-biological model. The analysis of simulations clearly shows that wind mixing events – their duration, strength and frequency – determines both the distance from the ice-edge of the sea ice associated phytoplankton bloom and the occurrence in the ice-free area of secondary phytoplankton blooms during the summer period. The magnitude and extent of the ice-edge bloom is determined by the combined action of meteorological conditions and grazing pressure. In the absence of grazers, a maximum ice-edge bloom of 7.5 mg Chl a m−3 is predicted under averaged wind conditions of 8 m s−1. Extreme constant wind scenarios (4-14 m s−1) combined with realistic grazing pressure predict maximum ice-edge phytoplankton concentrations varying from 11.5 to 2 mg Chl a m−3. Persistent violent wind conditions (≥ 14 m s−1) are shown to prevent blooms from developing even during the brightest period of the year.
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