Mixed layer depth and chlorophyll a: profiling float observations in the Kuroshio-Oyashio Extension region

Sachihiko Itoh, Atmos. & Ocean Res. Institute, Kashiwa, Japan
Variability in the chlorophyll a concentration (Chl) in relation to fluctuations in the mixed layer (ML) was investigated together with turbidity (Tur) in the Kuroshio-Oyashio Extension region, using profiling floats. A particular focus was the validity of two hypotheses concerning the spring bloom: the critical depth hypothesis (CDH) and the recently proposed alternative, the disturbance- recovery hypothesis (DRH). During the period from winter to early spring, Chl and Tur integrated over the photosynthetically active layer (PL; defined as the greatest depth of the ML and the euphotic layer) increased with increasing PL depth (PLD), indicating an increase in the phytoplankton biomass. This result is partly consistent with the DRH in that the observed increase in biomass was not explained by an increase in production. Instead, it was more likely attributable to a reduction in the loss rate. However, theoretical analyses revealed that grazer dilution alone could not cause this increase in biomass because such an increase in the ML in the real ocean (as opposed to a dilution experiment within a bottle) would cause a reduction in the mean light intensity. Despite the loss-controlled fluctuation in biomass during the period of low light, a production-driven fluctuation in biomass was also revealed. This occurred when the light intensity was elevated, particularly after late spring, and was consistent with the CDH. Thus, the present study suggests that both the production-driven and loss-driven hypotheses are responsible for the dynamics of the phytoplankton dynamics from winter to spring in the Kuroshio-Oyashio Extension region.