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Particulate matter and plankton dynamics in the Ross Sea Polynya of Terra Nova Bay during the Austral Summer 1997/98
Fonda Umani, S.; Accornero, A.; Budillon, G.; Capello, M.; Tucci, S.; Cabrini, M.; Del Negro, P.; Monti, M.; De Vittor, C. (2002). Particulate matter and plankton dynamics in the Ross Sea Polynya of Terra Nova Bay during the Austral Summer 1997/98. J. Mar. Syst. 36(1-2): 29-49. dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0924-7963(02)00133-1
In: Journal of Marine Systems. Elsevier: Tokyo; Oxford; New York; Amsterdam. ISSN 0924-7963, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Carbon sinks; Community composition; Faecal pellets; Food webs; Particulate flux; Particulate organic matter; Polynyas; Pycnocline; Suspended organic matter; PS, Ross Sea [Marine Regions]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Fonda Umani, S.
  • Accornero, A.
  • Budillon, G.
  • Capello, M.
  • Tucci, S.
  • Cabrini, M.
  • Del Negro, P.
  • Monti, M.
  • De Vittor, C.

Abstract
    The structure and variability of the plankton community and the distribution and composition of suspended particulate matter, were investigated in the polynya of Terra Nova Bay (western Ross Sea) during the austral summer 1997/1998, with the ultimate objective of understanding the trophic control of carbon export from the upper water column. Sampling was conducted along a transect parallel to the shore, near the retreating ice edge at the beginning of December, closer to the coast at the beginning of February, and more offshore in late February. Hydrological casts and water sampling were performed at several depths to measure total particulate matter (TPM), particulate organic carbon (POC), biogenic silica (BSi), chlorophyll a (Chl a) and phaeopigment (Phaeo) concentrations. Subsamples were taken for counting autotrophic and heterotrophic pico- and nanoplankton and to assess the abundance and composition of microphyto- and microzooplankton. Statistical analysis identified two major groups of samples: the first included the most coastal surface samples of early December, characterized by the prevalence of autotrophic nanoplankton biomass; the second included all the remaining samples and was dominated by microphytoplankton. With regard to the relation of the plankton community composition to the biogenic suspended and sinking material, we identified the succession of three distinct periods. In early December Phaeocystis dominated the plankton assemblage in the well-mixed water column, while at the retreating ice-edge a bloom of small diatoms (ND) was developing in the lens of superficial diluted water. Concentrations of biogenic particulates were generally low and confined to the uppermost layer. The very low downward fluxes, the near absence of faecal pellets and the high Chl a/Phaeo ratios suggested that the herbivorous food web was not established yet or, at least, was not working efficiently. In early February the superficial pycnocline and the increased water column stability favoured the development of the most intense bloom of the season, essentially sustained by micro-sized diatoms (MD). The shift of the autotrophic community toward this size component produced major changes in the composition of particulate matter and determined its export to depth. The particulate organic carbon (POC)/chlorophyll a (Chl a) and Chl a/Phaeo ratios more than halved, biogenic silica (BSi)/POC and BSi/Chl a strongly increased. Downward fluxes were greatly enhanced (reaching the yearly maximum) and essentially occurred via faecal pellets, underscoring the high efficiency of the herbivorous food web. In late February the deepening of the pycnocline, together with the decrease in light intensity, contributed to halting the diatom bloom. The biomass of small heterotrophs (HNF and MCZ) significantly increased relative to the previous period, favouring the shift toward a mistivorous food web and resulting in the retention of biogenic matter in the superficial layer. Only in early February, with the increase in the size of primary producers (essentially represented by micro-sized diatoms), did the grazing food web become efficient, fuelling the long-lived carbon pool and enhancing export to depth (and hence carbon sequestration) via the sinking of large diatoms and high amounts of faecal pellets. The conditions predominating in the Terra Nova Bay polynya in mid-summer probably increased the efficiency of the CO2 pump, possibly causing the Bay to act as a carbon sink.

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