Summertime productivity and carbon export potential in the Weddell Sea, with a focus on the waters adjacent to Larsen C Ice Shelf.

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From: Biogeosciences(Vol. 18, Issue 22)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 312 words

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Abstract :

The Weddell Sea represents a point of origin in the Southern Ocean where globally important water masses form. Biological activities in Weddell Sea surface waters thus affect large-scale ocean biogeochemistry. During January-February 2019, we measured net primary production (NPP), nitrogen (nitrate, ammonium, urea) uptake, and nitrification in the western Weddell Sea at the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) and Larsen C Ice Shelf (LCIS), in the southwestern Weddell Gyre (WG), and at Fimbul Ice Shelf (FIS) in the south-eastern Weddell Sea. The highest average rates of NPP and greatest nutrient drawdown occurred at LCIS. Here, the phytoplankton community was dominated by colonial Phaeocystis antarctica, with diatoms increasing in abundance later in the season as sea ice melted. At the other stations, NPP was variable, and diatoms known to enhance carbon export (e.g. Thalassiosira spp.) were dominant. Euphotic zone nitrification was always below detection, such that nitrate uptake could be used as a proxy for carbon export potential, which was highest in absolute terms at LCIS and the AP. Surprisingly, the highest f ratios occurred near FIS rather than LCIS (average of 0.73±0.09 versus 0.47±0.08). We attribute this unexpected result to partial ammonium inhibition of nitrate uptake at LCIS (where ammonium concentrations were 0.6±0.4 µM, versus 0.05±0.1 µM at FIS), with elevated ammonium resulting from increased heterotrophy following the accumulation of nitrate-fuelled phytoplankton biomass in early summer. Across the Weddell Sea, carbon export appears to be controlled by a combination of physical, chemical, and biological factors, with the highest potential export flux occurring at the ice shelves and lowest in the central WG.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A683696105