The seasonal cycle of phytoplankton biomass and primary productivity in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

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Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography
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Phytoplankton standing stocks and carbon assimilation were measured during four cruises to the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica during 1996 and 1997 in order to assess the details of the seasonal cycle of biomass and productivity. The seasonal composite showed that phytoplankton biomass increased rapidly during the austral spring, and integrated chlorophyll reached a maximum during the summer (January 15) and decreased thereafter. Particulate matter ratios (carbon:nitrogen, carbon:chlorophyll) also showed distinct seasonal trends with summer minima. Carbon assimilation increased rapidly in the spring, and reached a maximum of 231 mmol C m(-2) d(-1), ca, four weeks earlier than the maximum observed biomass (during early December). It decreased rapidly thereafter, and in austral autumn when ice formed, it approached zero. The time of maximum growth rate coincided with the maximum in C-assimilation, and at 0.66 d(-1) equaled predictions based on laboratory cultures. Growth rates over the entire growing season, however, were generally much less. Deck-board incubations suggested that photoinhibition occurred at the greatest photon flux densities, but in situ incubations revealed no such surface inhibition. We suggest that due to the nature of the irradiance field in the Antarctic, assemblages maintained in on-deck incubators received more light than those in situ, which resulted in photoinhibition. This in turn resulted in a 17% underestimate in on-deck productivity relative to in situ determinations. The phytoplankton bloom appeared to be initiated when vertical stability was imparted in austral spring, coincident with greater daily photon flux densities. Conversely, decreased productivity likely resulted from trace metal limitation, whereas biomass declines likely resulted from enhanced loss rates, such as aggregate formation and enhanced vertical flux of larger particles. The seasonal progression of productivity and biomass in the southern Ross Sea was similar to other areas in the ocean that experience blooms, and the cycling of carbon in this region is extensive, despite the fact that the growing season extends no more than five months. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


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