The role of mesoscale kinetic energy in natural occurring phytoplankton blooms and export in Drake Passage.
Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:45 AM
The Southern Ocean is an iron limited, high nitrate, low chlorophyll region that draws considerable attention as a potential site for carbon drawdown through iron fertilization. However, there are no prolonged in-situ observations of the mechanisms driving naturally occurring blooms in this region. Here we present results from an APEX biofloat that continuously profiled the Drake Passage from ~ 2,000 m to the surface every two days. The biofloat measured the development and export of a naturally occurring phytoplankton bloom in the Drake Passage. Our analysis indicates that low levels of mesoscale kinetic energy coincided with the observed phytoplankton bloom. We postulate that low KE level are a precondition for bloom onset in the Drake Passage, which is confirmed by satellite observations. High levels of mesoscale kinetic energy immediately followed the phytoplankton bloom and appear to have facilitated organic carbon export to the deep ocean by changing the neutral density depths of aggregated cells. Furthermore, satellite observations in Drake Passage suggest that high levels of mesoscale kinetic energy limit bloom formation. We suggest that low mesoscale kinetic energy is a precondition for bloom formation in the Drake Passage before other potentially limiting factors become significant (e.g. grazing relation, macronutrients, micronutrients). If mesoscale kinetic energy were to impose a limitation on phytoplankton concentrations across the entire Southern Ocean, there may be regions unsuitable for geoengineered draw down of atmospheric carbon dioxide through large scale iron additions.