Plankton patchiness investigated using simultaneous nitrate and chlorophyll observations

van Gennip, Simon; Martin, Adrian P. ORCID:; Srokosz, Meric A. ORCID:; Allen, John T.; Pidcock, Rosalind; Painter, Stuart C.; Stinchcombe, Mark C.. 2016 Plankton patchiness investigated using simultaneous nitrate and chlorophyll observations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 121 (6). 4149-4156.

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The complex patterns observed in marine phytoplankton distributions arise from the interplay of biological and physical processes, but the nature of the balance remains uncertain centuries after the first observations. Previous observations have shown a consistent trend of decreasing variability with decreasing length-scale. Influenced by similar scaling found for the properties of the water that the phytoplankton inhabit, ‘universal' theories have been proposed that simultaneously explain the variability seen from meters to hundreds of kilometers. However, data on the distribution of phytoplankton alone has proved insufficient to differentiate between the many causal mechanisms that have been suggested. Here we present novel observations from a cruise in the North Atlantic in which fluorescence (proxy for phytoplankton), nitrate and temperature were measured simultaneously at scales from 10 m to 100 km for the first time in the open ocean. These show a change in spectra between the small scale (10–100 m) and the mesoscale (10–100 km) which is different for the three tracers. We discuss these observations in relation to the current theories for phytoplankton patchiness.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 21699275
Additional Keywords: Phytoplankton; nitrate; mesoscale; patchiness; spectra
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Date made live: 18 May 2016 12:45 +0 (UTC)

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