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Environmental drivers of phytoplankton taxonomic composition in an Antarctic fjord

TitleEnvironmental drivers of phytoplankton taxonomic composition in an Antarctic fjord
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsPan B.J, Vernet M, Manck L., Forsch K., Ekern L., Mascioni M., Barbeau K.A, Almandoz GO, Orona A.J
Date Published2020/04
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0079-6611
Accession NumberWOS:000528805100015
KeywordsAbundances; Antarctic waters; Bransfield strait; class; coastal waters; decadal variability; ice melting; ice-zone west; marine ecology; marine-phytoplankton; northern marguerite bay; nutrients; oceanography; phytoplankton; sea-ice; shelf waters; Southern Annular mode; western antarctic peninsula

The impact of ice-ocean interaction on the Southern Ocean is expected to intensify in the future. However, its influence on phytoplankton community composition remains an open question. The Antarctic Peninsula fjords offer an ideal system to understand the effect of ice-ocean forcing on phytoplankton community, providing an extreme in the spatial gradient from the glacio-marine boundary to the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) continental shelf. During two cruises conducted in December 2015 and April 2016 in Andvord Bay, we found that glacial meltwater input altered surface salinity, promoting shallow mixed layers, and enriched surface waters in dissolved iron and nitrate. The three major groups of phytoplankton fueled by glacial input were: cryptophytes, diatoms, and a group of unidentified small flagellates. Prasinophytes and dinoflagellates were also present, in lower concentrations. In December, cryptophytes dominated the phytoplankton community and were correlated with relatively warmer temperatures in the surface layer; in addition, contrary to our hypothesis, no diatom bloom was observed in the fjord in spite of dissolved iron concentration > 1 nM. By April, after the growth season, the overall phytoplankton abundance had decreased by an order of magnitude. Phytoplankton, in particular diatoms, were then limited by daytime length despite abundant macro-nutrient and iron concentrations. Mixed flagellates emerged as the dominant group during April due to the decline of other major taxa. Deep-learning algorithms for predicting the abundance of each major phytoplankton group captured the effects of these environmental factors on the phytoplankton community. Our results show that the fjord has relatively high phytoplankton biomass combined with high macro- and trace nutrient concentrations when compared to the broader WAP region. Based on this study, we confirm that flagellates can be the dominant taxon in Antarctic nearshore waters and we propose that iron concentration alone is insufficient to predict diatom growth. Furthermore, marine terminating glaciers in the WAP can enrich surface waters with nitrate even if the main fjord circulation is not driven by glacier meltwater discharge.

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