Seasonal dynamics of coastal ecosystems and export production at high latitudes: A modeling study

Tian, Ru Cheng, Alain F. Vézina, Michel Starr, François Saucier

Limnol. Oceanogr., 46(8), 2001, 1845-1859 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2001.46.8.1845

ABSTRACT: Export of organic matter from the surface to deeper waters often shows much smaller seasonal variations than primary production or nitrate-based new production in mid- to high-latitude marine systems. The mechanisms underlying this pattern remain poorly understood, but seasonal shifts in food web structure and dynamics have been implicated. We report here on an ecosystem modeling analysis of a high-resolution (biweekly) time series of biomass, production, and export flux (sediment trap) measurements conducted in 1991 in Bonne Bay (Newfoundland). This time series shows the classical pattern of a spring bloom followed by a summer low biomass period, yet export is bimodal, with maxima during spring and late summer. The ecosystem model was forced by diagnostic vertical mixing calculations based on temperature and salinity records taken every 3 d and hourly wind data. The physical analysis indicated that the nitrate flux into the euphotic zone during summer was equivalent to that during the spring and fall seasons and accounted for half of the summer export. Statistical adjustments of the parameters of the ecosystem model indicated that strong production of dissolved organic carbon during the spring bloom, high temperature dependence of microbial activity, and physico-chemical particle aggregation played key roles in explaining the remainder of the summer export. Seasonal changes in trophic pathways between spring and summer, such as a shift from a herbivorous to a microbial food web, played a comparatively smaller role. Our modeling analysis suggests that physical mixing processes and physico-chemical aggregation processes are at least as important as shifts in food web trophic pathways in explaining the postbloom export flux in mid- to high-latitude marine systems.

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