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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00531

Factors controlling the lack of phytoplankton biomass in naturally iron fertilized waters near Heard and McDonald islands in the Southern Ocean

  • 1CSIRO Oceans and Atmopshere, Australia
  • 2Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (CSIRO), Australia
  • 3Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Australia
  • 4South Australian Research and Development Institute, Australia
  • 5Independent researcher, Australia

The Kerguelen Plateau is one of the regions in the Southern Ocean where spatially large algal blooms occur annually due to natural iron fertilization. The analysis of ocean colour data as well as in situ samples collected during the Heard Earth-Ocean-Biosphere Interactions (HEOBI) voyage in January and February 2016, surprisingly revealed that chlorophyll a concentrations in waters located close to Heard and McDonald islands were much lower than those on the central Kerguelen Plateau. This occurs despite high levels of both glacial and volcanic iron supply from these islands. The analysis of pigment and optical data also indicated a shift in the phytoplankton size structure in this region, from a microphytoplankton to nanophytoplankton dominated community. Possible explanations for this high nutrient, high iron (Fe), low chlorophyll (HNHFeLC) phenomenon were explored. Low light availability due to deep mixing and shading by re-suspended sediment particles and augmented by dilution with surrounding low chlorophyll waters in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current was shown to be an important mechanism shaping phytoplankton communities. The competing dynamics between stimulation and limitation illustrate the complexity of short-term responses to our changing climate and cryosphere.

Keywords: Southern Ocean, Heard Island, iron fertilization, Phytoplankton, pigments, backscattering, Light Attenuation

Received: 15 Apr 2019; Accepted: 13 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Wojtasiewicz, Trull, Clementson, Davies, Patten, Schallenberg and Hardman-Mountford. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Bozena Wojtasiewicz, CSIRO Oceans and Atmopshere, Hobart, Australia, bozena.wojtasiewicz@csiro.au