Phenology of the McMurdo Sound Spring Bloom

Kendra L Daly1, Stacy Kim2, Heather Broadbent1, Ben Saenz1, David G Ainley3, Grant Ballard4, Robert Pitman5 and Giacomo R DiTullio6, (1)University of South Florida, College of Marine Science, St. Petersburg, FL, United States, (2)Moss Landing Marine Lab, Moss Landing, CA, United States, (3)H.T. Harvey & Associates Ecological Consultants, United States, (4)Point Blue Conservation Science, Petaluma, CA, United States, (5)NOAA, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, San Diego, CA, United States, (6)College of Charleston, Department of Biology, Charleston, SC, United States
The phenology of spring blooms in most cases has important consequences for the food web that supports upper trophic level predators. An investigation during spring/summer of 2012/13 and 2014/15 of the McMurdo Sound ecosystem, at the southern end of the Ross Sea, revealed that maximum concentrations of fast ice algae occurred during November, with higher concentrations on the eastern side of the Sound near Ross Island and lower concentrations on the western side in the cold water outflow from under the Ross Ice Shelf. In early to mid-December, warming surface water ablated the undersurface of the fast ice and ice algae likely sank rapidly out of the water column to provide food for the benthos. Also in early to mid-December, the McMurdo system transitioned to a phytoplankton bloom at the fast ice edge and under the ice, which co-occurred with the timing of Adelie penguin reproduction (chick hatching) at Cape Royds and the arrival of minke whales and fish-eating killer whales at the fast ice edge. The phytoplankton bloom was initially advected from the Ross Sea into the eastern side of McMurdo Sound and then spread across the Sound to the western side. The phytoplankton community, which was dominated by diatoms and Phaeocystis, was not grazed down by zooplankton and appeared to sink out of the water column. Results support recent findings that a wasp-waist food web structure exists in the Ross Sea, whereby upper trophic levels are not closely coupled to phytoplankton dynamics.