On the phytoplankton bloom in coastal waters of southern King George Island (Antarctica) in January 2010: An exceptional feature?

I. R. Schloss, A. Wasilowska, D. Dumont, G. O. Almandoz, M. P. Hernando, C.-A. Michaud-Tremblay, L. Saravia, M. Rzepecki, P. Monien, D. Monien, E. E. Kopczyńska, A. V. Bers and G. A. Ferreyra

Limnol. Oceanogr., 59(1), 2014, 195-210 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2014.59.1.0195

ABSTRACT: Since the early 1990s, phytoplankton has been studied and monitored in Potter Cove (PC) and Admiralty Bay (AB), King George/25 de Mayo Island (KGI), South Shetlands. Phytoplankton biomass is typically low compared to other Antarctic shelf environments, with average spring–summer values below 1 mg chlorophyll a (Chl a) m−3. The physical conditions in the area (reduced irradiance induced by particles originated from the land, intense winds) limit the coastal productivity at KGI, as a result of shallow Sverdrup's critical depths (Zc) and large turbulent mixing depths (Zt). In January 2010 a large phytoplankton bloom with a maximum of around 20 mg Chl a m−3, and monthly averages of 4 (PC) and 6 (AB) mg Chl a m−3, was observed in the area, making it by far the largest recorded bloom over the last 20 yr. Dominant phytoplankton species were the typical bloom-forming diatoms that are usually found in the western Antarctic Peninsula area. Anomalously cold air temperature and dominant winds from the eastern sector seem to explain adequate light : mixing environment. Local physical conditions were analyzed by means of the relationship between Zc and Zt, and conditions were found adequate for allowing phytoplankton development. However, a multiyear analysis indicates that these conditions may be necessary but not sufficient to guarantee phytoplankton accumulation. The relation between maximum Chl a values and air temperature suggests that bottom-up control would render such large blooms even less frequent in KGI under the warmer climate expected in the area during the second half of the present century.

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