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Volume 14, issue 21
Biogeosciences, 14, 4905–4925, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 14, 4905–4925, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 07 Nov 2017

Research article | 07 Nov 2017

The influence of environmental variability on the biogeography of coccolithophores and diatoms in the Great Calcite Belt

Helen E. K. Smith1,2, Alex J. Poulton1,a, Rebecca Garley3, Jason Hopkins4, Laura C. Lubelczyk4, Dave T. Drapeau4, Sara Rauschenberg4, Ben S. Twining4, Nicholas R. Bates2,3, and William M. Balch4 Helen E. K. Smith et al.
  • 1National Oceanography Centre, European Way, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK
  • 2Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK
  • 3Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, 17 Biological Station, Ferry Reach, St. George's GE 01, Bermuda
  • 4Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, 60 Bigelow Drive, P.O. Box 380, East Boothbay, Maine 04544, USA
  • apresently at: The Lyell Centre, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK

Abstract. The Great Calcite Belt (GCB) of the Southern Ocean is a region of elevated summertime upper ocean calcite concentration derived from coccolithophores, despite the region being known for its diatom predominance. The overlap of two major phytoplankton groups, coccolithophores and diatoms, in the dynamic frontal systems characteristic of this region provides an ideal setting to study environmental influences on the distribution of different species within these taxonomic groups. Samples for phytoplankton enumeration were collected from the upper mixed layer (30 m) during two cruises, the first to the South Atlantic sector (January–February 2011; 60° W–15° E and 36–60° S) and the second in the South Indian sector (February–March 2012; 40–120° E and 36–60° S). The species composition of coccolithophores and diatoms was examined using scanning electron microscopy at 27 stations across the Subtropical, Polar, and Subantarctic fronts. The influence of environmental parameters, such as sea surface temperature (SST), salinity, carbonate chemistry (pH, partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2), alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon), macronutrients (nitrate + nitrite, phosphate, silicic acid, ammonia), and mixed layer average irradiance, on species composition across the GCB was assessed statistically. Nanophytoplankton (cells 2–20 µm) were the numerically abundant size group of biomineralizing phytoplankton across the GCB, with the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi and diatoms Fragilariopsis nana, F. pseudonana, and Pseudo-nitzschia spp. as the most numerically dominant and widely distributed. A combination of SST, macronutrient concentrations, and pCO2 provided the best statistical descriptors of the biogeographic variability in biomineralizing species composition between stations. Emiliania huxleyi occurred in silicic acid-depleted waters between the Subantarctic Front and the Polar Front, a favorable environment for this species after spring diatom blooms remove silicic acid. Multivariate statistics identified a combination of carbonate chemistry and macronutrients, covarying with temperature, as the dominant drivers of biomineralizing nanoplankton in the GCB sector of the Southern Ocean.

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Short summary
The Great Calcite Belt (GCB), a region of high calcite concentration from coccolithophores, covers 60 % of the Southern Ocean area. We examined the influence of temperature, macronutrients, and carbonate chemistry on the distribution of mineralizing phytoplankton in the GCB. Coccolithophores occupy a niche in the Southern Ocean after the diatom spring bloom depletes silicic acid. No single environmental variable holds a dominant influence over phytoplankton biogeography in summer GCB conditions.
The Great Calcite Belt (GCB), a region of high calcite concentration from coccolithophores,...
Final-revised paper