Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-306
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-306

  25 Nov 2021

25 Nov 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

The onset of the spring phytoplankton bloom in the coastal North Sea supports the Disturbance Recovery Hypothesis

Ricardo González-Gil1, Neil S. Banas1, Eileen Bresnan2, and Michael R. Heath1 Ricardo González-Gil et al.
  • 1Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde, 26 Richmond Street, Glasgow, G1 1XH, UK
  • 2Marine Scotland Science, Marine Laboratory, 375 Victoria Road, Aberdeen, AB11 9DB, UK

Abstract. The spring phytoplankton bloom is a key event in temperate and polar seas, yet the mechanisms that trigger it remain under debate. Some hypotheses claim that the spring bloom onset occurs when light is no longer limiting, allowing phytoplankton division rates to surpass a critical threshold. In contrast, the Disturbance Recovery Hypothesis (DRH) proposes that the onset responds to an imbalance between phytoplankton growth and loss processes, allowing phytoplankton biomass to start accumulating, and this can occur even when light is still limiting. Although many studies have shown that the DRH explains the spring bloom onset in oceanic waters, it is less certain whether and how it also applies to coastal areas. To address this question at a coastal location in the Scottish North Sea, we combined 21 years (1997–2017) of weekly in situ data with meteorological information. The onset of phytoplankton biomass accumulation occurred around the same date each year, 16 ± 11 days (mean ± SD) after the winter solstice, when light limitation for growth was strongest. Also, negative and positive biomass accumulation rates (r) occurred respectively before and after the winter solstice at similar light levels. The seasonal change from negative to positive r was mainly driven by the rate of change in light availability rather than light itself. Our results support the validity of the DRH for the studied coastal region and suggest its applicability to other coastal areas.

Ricardo González-Gil et al.

Status: open (until 06 Jan 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-306', michael behrenfeld, 06 Dec 2021 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-306', Anonymous Referee #1, 07 Dec 2021 reply

Ricardo González-Gil et al.

Ricardo González-Gil et al.

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Short summary
Spring bloom observations in oceanic waters of phytoplankton biomass accumulating in winter, when light still limits growth, are ascribed to grazing release as the mixed layer deepens. However, in coastal areas, it is not clear whether winter accumulation can occur without this deepening. Using 21 years of weekly data, we found that in the Scottish coastal North Sea, the seasonal increase in winter light triggers the accumulation of phytoplankton biomass when light limitation is strongest.
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