Articles | Volume 10, issue 10
Research article
10 Oct 2013
Research article |  | 10 Oct 2013

Impact of the Kuroshio intrusion on the nutrient inventory in the upper northern South China Sea: insights from an isopycnal mixing model

C. Du, Z. Liu, M. Dai, S.-J. Kao, Z. Cao, Y. Zhang, T. Huang, L. Wang, and Y. Li

Abstract. Based on four cruises covering a seasonal cycle in 2009–2011, we examined the impact of the Kuroshio intrusion, featured by extremely oligotrophic waters, on the nutrient inventory in the central northern South China Sea (NSCS). The nutrient inventory in the upper 100 m of the water column in the study area ranged from ∼200 to ∼290 mmol m−2 for N + N (nitrate plus nitrite), from ∼13 to ∼24 mmol m−2 for soluble reactive phosphate and from ∼210 to ∼430 mmol m−2 for silicic acid. The nutrient inventory showed a clear seasonal pattern with the highest value appearing in summer, while the N + N inventory in spring and winter had a reduction of ∼13 and ∼30%, respectively, relative to that in summer. To quantify the extent of the Kuroshio intrusion, an isopycnal mixing model was adopted to derive the proportional contribution of water masses from the SCS proper and the Kuroshio along individual isopycnal surfaces. The derived mixing ratio along the isopycnal plane was then employed to predict the genuine gradients of nutrients under the assumption of no biogeochemical alteration. These predicted nutrient concentrations, denoted as Nm, are solely determined by water mass mixing. Results showed that the nutrient inventory in the upper 100 m of the NSCS was overall negatively correlated to the Kuroshio water fraction, suggesting that the Kuroshio intrusion significantly influenced the nutrient distribution in the SCS and its seasonal variation. The difference between the observed nutrient concentrations and their corresponding Nm allowed us to further quantify the nutrient removal/addition associated with the biogeochemical processes on top of the water mass mixing. We revealed that the nutrients in the upper 100 m of the water column had a net consumption in both winter and spring but a net addition in fall.

Final-revised paper