Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Coccolithophore blooms in the southwest Atlantic

22.10.2010
A study led by Dr Stuart Painter of the National Oceanography Centre helps explain the formation of huge phytoplankton blooms off the southeast coast of South America during the austral summer (December-January). The region supports the highly productive Patagonian Shelf marine ecosystem, which includes a globally important fishery.

Coccolithophores are key members of the marine phytoplankton community. They are abundant in the sunlit upper layer of the world’s oceans, often forming vast blooms that can be seen from space.

“Coccolithophores are a complex group of plankton and in many areas of the World Ocean satellite-based observations provide the only information we have. We often have little direct knowledge of the environmental factors coincident with these blooms,” explained Painter.

To understand the environmental factors controlling the development of coccolithophore blooms, Painter and his coauthors joined a cruise led by Dr William Balch of the Bigelow Laboratory (Maine, USA) and measured the salinity, chemistry and nutrient levels of the waters overlying the Patagonian Shelfand the shelf break, where the seafloor dips down to the deep seabed.

They also took measurements at the Brazil/Falklands Confluence to the northeast, where two major currents collide. These are the Brazil Current, which carries warm, saline subtropical waters southwards, and the Falklands Current, which brings cold, fresh and nutrient-rich water up from the sub-Antarctic region.

The continental shelf itself experiences strong tides and inputs from large rivers. And to complicate matters further, low-salinity water also enters the Patagonian Shelf region from the Pacific Ocean through the Magellan Strait in the south.

“The marine environment of the Patagonian Shelf region is well known for its complexity but what has been less clear until now is how this relates to the large blooms of coccolithophores in this region,” said Painter.

He and his collaborators identified five distinct water masses, each having different characteristics, such as temperature and nutrient concentration. These water masses also varied in the amount of chlorophyll in their surface waters, indicating different levels of phytoplankton production.

During the research cruise, a large bloom of the globally ubiquitous coccolthophore species Emiliania huxleyiformed in the sub-Antarctic Shelf Water (SSW), north of the Falkland Islands. The bloom extended north along the shelf break and coincided with the distribution of reflective calcite detected from space, which was otherwise diffusely distributed. Calcite is a carbonate mineral and a common constituent of limestone. It also forms the microscopic plates – ‘coccoliths’ – that surround coccolithophores, possibly for protection.

Chemical and nutrient measurements confirmed that conditions within the SSW were especially conducive for coccolithophore bloom formation, with the right cocktail of nutrients and seawater temperature.

However, the distribution of the SSW is strongly influenced by the shelf break front, which is the focus of intense biological production. It can vary from 20 to 200 kilometres in width determining exactly where conditions are right for coccolithophore blooms.

“The complex interaction of large currents and different water masses clearly exerts strong controls over the position of coccolithophore blooms in this region,”said Painter.

The research was carried out 2008, during the period of peak coccolithophore abundance (December), while aboard the America research vessel Roger Revelle. Remote sensing data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument the Aqua satellite was acquired from NASA.

The researchers were Stuart Painter, Alex Poulton and John Allen of the National Oceanography Centre, Rosalind Pidcock of the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science, and William Balch of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Maine, USA.

The Coccolithophores of the Patagonian Shelf (COPAS) research cruise was funded by the US National Science Foundation. Further financial support was provided by the US Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Natural Environment Research Council.

Publication:
Publication: Painter, S. C., Poulton, A. H., Allen, J. T., Pidcock, R. & Balch, W. M. The COPAS’08 expedition to the Patagonian Shelf: Physical and environmental conditions during the 2008 coccolithophore bloom. Continental Shelf Research (published online, 2010). doi:10.1016/j.csr.2010.08.013

Dr. Rory Howlett | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.soton.ac.uk
http://noc.ac.uk/news/coccolithophore-blooms-southwest-atlantic

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>