Mechanisms of northern North Atlantic biomass variability

McKinley, Galen A.; Ritzer, Alexis L.; Lovenduski, Nicole S.

In the North Atlantic Ocean north of 40inline-formula N, intense biological productivity occurs to form the base of a highly productive marine food web. SeaWiFS satellite observations indicate trends of biomass in this region over 1998–2007. Significant biomass increases occur in the northwest subpolar gyre and there are simultaneous significant declines to the east of 30–35inline-formula W. These short-term changes, attributable to internal variability, offer an opportunity to explore the mechanisms of the coupled physical–biogeochemical system. We use a regional biogeochemical model that captures the observed changes for this exploration. Biomass increases in the northwest are due to a weakening of the subpolar gyre and associated shoaling of mixed layers that relieves light limitation. Biomass declines to the east of 30–35inline-formula W are due to reduced horizontal convergence of phosphate. This reduced convergence is attributable to declines in vertical phosphate supply in the regions of deepest winter mixing that lie to the west of 30–35inline-formula W. Over the full time frame of the model experiment, 1949–2009, variability of both horizontal and vertical phosphate supply drive variability in biomass on the northeastern flank of the subtropical gyre. In the northeast subpolar gyre horizontal fluxes drive biomass variability for both time frames. Though physically driven changes in nutrient supply or light availability are the ultimate drivers of biomass changes, clear mechanistic links between biomass and standard physical variables or climate indices remain largely elusive.



McKinley, Galen A. / Ritzer, Alexis L. / Lovenduski, Nicole S.: Mechanisms of northern North Atlantic biomass variability. 2018. Copernicus Publications.


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