Inter-shelf nutrient transport from the East China Sea as a major nutrient source supporting winter primary production on the northeast South China Sea shelf
The East China Sea (ECS) and the South China Sea (SCS) are two major marginal seas of the North Pacific with distinct seasonal variations of primary productivity. Based upon field observations covering both the ECS and the northern SCS (NSCS) during December 2008–January 2009, we examined southward long-range transport of nutrients from the ECS to the northeastern SCS (NESCS) carried by the China Coastal Current (CCC) driven by the prevailing northeast monsoon in wintertime. These escaped nutrients from the ECS shelf, where primary production (PP) was limited in winter, might however refuel the PP on the NESCS shelf at lower latitude, where the water temperature remained favorable, but river-sourced nutrients were limited. By combining the field observation of nitrate+nitrite (NO 3+NO 2, DIN) with our best estimate of volume transport of the CCC, we derived a first-order estimate for DIN flux of 1430 ± 1024 mol s −1. Under the assumption that DIN was the limiting nutrient, such southward DIN transport would have stimulated 8.84 ± 6.33 × 10 11 gC of new production (NP), accounting for 33–74% of the NP or 14–22% of PP in winter on the NESCS shelf shallower than 100 m.