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Phytoplankton spring bloom initiation: The impact of atmospheric forcing and light in the temperate North Atlantic Ocean

Rumyantseva, Anna and Henson, Stephanie and Martin, Adrian and Thompson, Andrew F. and Damerell, Gillian M. and Kaiser, Jan and Heywood, Karen J. (2019) Phytoplankton spring bloom initiation: The impact of atmospheric forcing and light in the temperate North Atlantic Ocean. Progress in Oceanography, 178 . Art. No. 102202. ISSN 0079-6611. doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2019.102202.

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The spring bloom dominates the annual cycle of phytoplankton abundance in large regions of the world oceans. The mechanisms that trigger blooms have been studied for decades, but are still keenly debated, due in part to a lack of data on phytoplankton stocks in winter and early spring. Now however autonomous underwater gliders can provide high-resolution sampling of the upper ocean over inter-seasonal timescales and advance our understanding of spring blooms. In this study, we analyze bio-optical and physical observations collected by gliders at the Porcupine Abyssal Plain observatory site to investigate the impact of atmospheric forcing and light conditions on phytoplankton blooms in the temperate North Atlantic. We contrast three hypotheses for the mechanism of bloom initiation: the critical depth, critical turbulence, and dilution-recoupling hypotheses. Bloom initiation at our study site corresponded to an improvement in growth conditions for phytoplankton (increasing light, decreasing mixing layer depth) and was most consistent with the critical depth hypothesis, with the proviso that mixing depth (rather than mixed layer depth) was considered. After initiation, the observed bloom developed slowly: over several months both depth-integrated inventories and surface concentrations of chlorophyll a increased only by a factor of ≈2 and ≈3 respectively. We find that periods of convective mixing and high winds in winter and spring can substantially decrease (up to an order of magnitude) light-dependent mean specific growth rate for phytoplankton and prevent the development of rapid, high-magnitude blooms.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Martin, Adrian0000-0002-1202-8612
Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Heywood, Karen J.0000-0001-9859-0026
Additional Information:© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. Under an Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). Received 10 May 2019, Revised 16 September 2019, Accepted 2 October 2019, Available online 10 October 2019. The authors would like to acknowledge glider teams at the University of East Anglia and California Institute of Technology, and the crews of the RRS Discovery, RV Celtic Explorer, and RRS James Cook for their help with the data collection and piloting the gliders. We thank John Taylor for valuable discussions on phytoplankton spring blooms. OSMOSIS was supported by NERC grants NE/I020083/1 and NE/I019905/1. Data acquisition for the project was also supported through EU FP7 Project EuroBASIN and NERC National Capability PAPSO funding. A. Rumyantseva was supported through a University of Southampton PhD studentship, A. Thompson was supported by NSF-OCE 1155676. The OSMOSIS data set is lodged with the British Oceanographic Data Centre (Damerell et al., 2018), and can be accessed at Conflict of interest: No conflicts of interest
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/I020083/1
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/I019905/1
European UnionEuroBASIN
University of SouthamptonUNSPECIFIED
NSFOCE 1155676
Subject Keywords:phytoplankton; spring bloom; glider; atmospheric forcing; mixing regimes; critical depth; critical turbulence; dilution-recoupling; North Atlantic Ocean
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20191011-113153425
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Official Citation:Anna Rumyantseva, Stephanie Henson, Adrian Martin, Andrew F. Thompson, Gillian M. Damerell, Jan Kaiser, Karen J. Heywood, Phytoplankton spring bloom initiation: The impact of atmospheric forcing and light in the temperate North Atlantic Ocean, Progress in Oceanography, Volume 178, 2019, 102202, ISSN 0079-6611, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:99240
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:11 Oct 2019 19:36
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:44

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