Seasonal evolution of net and regenerated silica production around a natural Fe-fertilized area in the Southern Ocean estimated with Si isotopic approaches
Abstract. A massive diatom bloom is observed each year in the surface waters of the naturally Fe-fertilized Kerguelen Plateau (Southern Ocean). We measured biogenic silica production and dissolution fluxes (ρSi and ρDiss, respectively) in the mixed layer in the vicinity of the Kerguelen Plateau during austral spring 2011 (KEOPS-2 cruise). We compare results from a high-nutrient low-chlorophyll reference station and stations with different degrees of iron enrichment and bloom conditions. Above the plateau biogenic ρSi are among the highest reported so far in the Southern Ocean (up to 47.9 mmol m−2 d−1). Although significant (10.2 mmol m−2 d−1 on average), ρDiss were generally much lower than production rates. Uptake ratios (ρSi : ρC and ρSi : ρN) confirm that diatoms strongly dominate primary production in this area. At the bloom onset, decreasing dissolution-to-production ratios (D : P) indicate that the remineralization of silica could sustain most of the low silicon uptake and that the system progressively shifts toward a silica production regime which must be mainly supported by new source of silicic acid. Moreover, by comparing results from the two KEOPS expeditions (spring 2011 and summer 2005), we suggest that there is a seasonal evolution of the processes decoupling Si and N cycles in the area. Indeed, the consumption of H4SiO4 standing stocks occurs only during the growing stage of the bloom when strong net silica production is observed, contributing to higher H4SiO4 depletion relative to NO3−. Then, the decoupling of H4SiO4 and NO3− is mainly controlled by the more efficient nitrogen recycling relative to Si. Gross Si : N uptake ratios were higher in the Fe-rich regions compared to the high-nutrient low-chlorophyll (HNLC) area, likely due to different diatom communities. This suggests that the diatom responses to natural Fe fertilization are more complex than previously thought, and that natural iron fertilization over long timescales does not necessarily decrease Si : N uptake ratios as suggested by the silicic acid leakage hypothesis. Finally, we propose the first seasonal estimate of the Si biogeochemical budget above the Kerguelen Plateau based on direct measurements. This study points out that naturally iron-fertilized areas of the Southern Ocean could sustain very high regimes of biogenic silica production, similar to those observed in highly productive upwelling systems.