Spatial distribution of the iron supply to phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean: a model study
Abstract. An upgraded version of the biogeochemical model SWAMCO is coupled to the ocean-sea-ice model NEMO-LIM to explore processes governing the spatial distribution of the iron supply to phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean. The 3-D NEMO-LIM-SWAMCO model is implemented in the ocean domain south of latitude 30° S and runs are performed over September 1989–December 2000. Model scenarios include potential iron sources (atmospheric deposition, iceberg calving/melting and continental sediments) as well as iron storage within sea ice, all formulated based on a literature review. When all these processes are included, the simulated iron profiles and phytoplankton bloom distributions show satisfactory agreement with observations. Analyses of simulations and sensitivity tests point to the key role played by continental sediments as a primary source for iron. Iceberg calving and melting contribute by up to 25% of Chl-a simulated in areas influenced by icebergs while atmospheric deposition has little effect at high latitudes. Activating sea ice-ocean iron exchanges redistribute iron geographically. Stored in the ice during winter formation, iron is then transported due to ice motion and is released and made available to phytoplankton during summer melt, in the vicinity of the marginal ice zones. Transient iron storage and transport associated with sea ice dynamics stimulate summer phytoplankton blooming (up to 3 mg Chl-a m-3 in the Weddell Sea and off East Antarctica but not in the Ross, Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas. This contrasted feature results from the simulated variable content of iron in sea ice and release of melting ice showing higher ice-ocean iron fluxes in the continental shelves of the Weddell and Ross Seas than in the Eastern Weddell Sea and the Bellingshausen-Amundsen Seas. This study confirms that iron sources and transport in the Southern Ocean likely provide important mechanisms in the geographical development of phytoplankton blooms and associated ecosystems.