Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
Biogeosciences, 11, 463–479, 2014
Biogeosciences, 11, 463–479, 2014

Research article 30 Jan 2014

Research article | 30 Jan 2014

Nutrient regimes control phytoplankton ecophysiology in the South Atlantic

T. J. Browning1, H. A. Bouman1, C. M. Moore2, C. Schlosser2, G. A. Tarran3, E. M. S. Woodward3, and G. M. Henderson1 T. J. Browning et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, UK
  • 2Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, European Way, Southampton, UK
  • 3Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, The Hoe, Plymouth, UK

Abstract. Fast Repetition Rate fluorometry (FRRf) measurements of phytoplankton photophysiology from an across-basin South Atlantic cruise (as part of the GEOTRACES programme) characterised two dominant ecophysiological regimes which were interpreted on the basis of nutrient limitation. South of the South Subtropical Convergence (SSTC) in the northern sub-Antarctic sector of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) in the Eastern Atlantic Basin, waters are characterised by elevated chlorophyll concentrations, a dominance by larger phytoplankton cells, and low apparent photochemical efficiency (Fv / Fm). Shipboard 24 h iron (Fe) addition incubation experiments confirmed that Fe stress was primarily responsible for the low Fv / Fm, with Fe addition to these waters, either within the artificial bottle additions or naturally occurring downstream enrichment from Gough Island, significantly increasing Fv / Fm values. To the north of the SSTC at the southern boundary of the South Atlantic Gyre, phytoplankton are characterised by high values of Fv / Fm which, coupled with the low macronutrient concentrations and increased presence of picocyanobacteria, are interpreted as conditions of Fe replete, balanced macronutrient-limited growth. Spatial correlation was found between Fv / Fm and Fe:nitrate ratios, supporting the suggestion that the relative supply ratios of these two nutrients can control patterns of limitation and consequently the ecophysiology of phytoplankton in subtropical gyre and ACC regimes.

Final-revised paper