Reviews and syntheses: Trends in primary production in the Bay of Bengal - is it at a tipping point?

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Date: Sept. 13, 2021
From: Biogeosciences(Vol. 18, Issue 17)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Article
Length: 423 words

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Abstract :

Ocean primary production is the basis of the marine food web, sustaining life in the ocean via photosynthesis, and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Recently, a small but significant decrease in global marine primary production has been reported based on ocean color data, which was mostly ascribed to decreases in primary production in the northern Indian Ocean, particularly in the Bay of Bengal. Available reports on primary production from the Bay of Bengal (BoB) are limited, and due to their spatial and temporal variability difficult to interpret. Primary production in the BoB has historically been described to be driven by diatom and chlorophyte clades, while only more recent datasets also show an abundance of smaller cyanobacterial primary producers visually difficult to detect. The different character of the available datasets, i.e., direct counts, metagenomic and biogeochemical data, and satellite-based ocean color observations, make it difficult to derive a consistent pattern. However, making use of the most highly resolved dataset based on satellite imaging, a shift in community composition of primary producers is visible in the BoB over the last 2 decades. This shift is driven by a decrease in chlorophyte abundance and a coinciding increase in cyanobacterial abundance, despite stable concentrations of total chlorophyll. A similar but somewhat weaker trend is visible in the Arabian Sea, where satellite imaging points towards decreasing abundances of chlorophytes in the north and increasing abundances of cyanobacteria in the eastern parts. Statistical analysis indicated a correlation of this community change in the BoB to decreasing nitrate concentrations, which may provide an explanation for both the decrease in eukaryotic nitrate-dependent primary producers and the increase in small unicellular cyanobacteria related to Prochlorococcus, which have a comparably higher affinity to nitrate. Changes in community composition of primary producers and an overall decrease in system productivity would strongly impact oxygen concentrations of the BoB's low-oxygen intermediate waters. Assuming decreasing nitrate concentrations and concurrent decreasing biomass production, export, and respiration, oxygen concentrations within the oxygen minimum zone would not be expected to further decrease. This effect could be enhanced by stronger stratification as a result of future warming and thus possibly counteract oxygen decrease as a direct effect of stratification. Therefore, given a decrease in primary production, the BoB may not be at a tipping point for becoming anoxic, unless external nutrient inputs increase.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A675240212