Phytoplankton production and biomass at frontal zones in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean
- Cite this article as:
- Laubscher, R.K., Perissinotto, R. & McQuaid, C.D. Polar Biol (1993) 13: 471. doi:10.1007/BF00233138
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A high resolution study of chlorophyll a and primary production distribution was carried out in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean during the austral summer of 1990–91. Primary production (14C assimilation) and photosynthetic capacity levels at frontal systems were among the highest recorded during the cruise (2.8–6.3 mgC·m−3·h−1, and 1.3–4.7mgC·mgChl a−1·h−1, respectively). Blooms at ocean fronts were strongly dominated by specific size classes and species. This suggests that the increase in biomass was probably the result of an enhancement of in situ production by selected components of the phytoplankton assemblage, rather than accumulation of cells through hydrographic forces. This hypothesis is supported by the high variability of photosynthetic capacities at adjacent stations along the transects. Blooms (ca 2.7–3.5 mg Chl a·m−3) were found at three oceanic fronts (the Subtropical, Subantarctic and Antarctic Polar Fronts) during the early summer. These were equivalent to, or denser than, blooms in the Marginal Ice Zone and at the Continental Water Boundary. Seasonal effects on phytoplankton community structure were very marked. In early summer (December), netphyto-plankton (>20 μm) was consistently the major component of the frontal blooms, with the chain-forming diatoms Chaetoceros spp. and Nitzschia spp. dominating at the Subantarctic and Antarctic Polar Fronts, respectively. During late summer (February), nanophytoplankton (1–20 μm) usually dominated algal communities at the main frontal areas. Only at the Antarctic Polar Front did netphytoplankton dominate, with the diatom component consisting almost exclusively of Corethron criophilum. An early to late summer shift of maximum phytoplankton biomass from north to south of the Antarctic Polar Front was observed. Spatial covariance between silicate levels and water-column stability appeared to be the main factor controlling phytoplankton production at the Antarctic Polar Front. Low silicate concentrations may have limited diatom growth at the northern edge of the front, while a deep mixed layer depth reduced production at the southern edge of the front.