Hydrologic controls of phytoplankton blooms in the Gulf of Maine

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Collin S Roesler, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, United States, Andrew Heath Barnard, Western Environmental Technologies, Philomath, OR, United States and Neal R Pettigrew, University of Maine, Orono, ME, United States
The Gulf of Maine is a marginal sea adjacent to the subpolar North Atlantic gyre. It similarly exhibits canonical seasonal phytoplankton blooms. An array of moorings was deployed on the shelf and deep basins in the Gulf of Maine in 2001 with real-time hydrographic and optical sensor packages. Daily climatologies of calibrated chlorophyll fluorescence (a proxy for phytoplankton biomass), temperature and salinity provide quantitative models for the spatial progression of seasonal patterns in stratification and bloom development. Anomaly time series indicate an abrupt change in the seasonal patterns beginning in 2005. Prior to 2005, seasonal blooms were triggered by the onset of thermally-driven stratification, the timing of which was primarily determined by latitude without influence of location on the shelf or deep basins. Spring blooms propagated from southwest to northeast, while fall blooms propagated from northeast to southwest following autumnal cooling and destratification. Beginning in 2005, an increase in the amount and intensity of precipitation yielded significant changes in river discharge patterns, particularly associated with the spring freshet. Springtime stratification patterns , and hence spring phytoplankton blooms, appeared much earlier and synoptically across the Gulf, in some locations up to 2 months earlier than observed prior to 2005. The consequences of such large variations in the timing and spatial patterns of spring phytoplankton blooms include large variations in specific growth rates, mismatch with grazing populations, and cascading changes in ecosystem structure throughout the Gulf of Maine.