Journal cover Journal topic
Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Ocean Sci., 10, 657-666, 2014
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-10-657-2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
14 Jul 2014
Observations of a phytoplankton spring bloom onset triggered by a density front in NW Mediterranean
A. Olita1, S. Sparnocchia2, S. Cusí3,*, L. Fazioli1, R. Sorgente1, J. Tintoré3,4, and A. Ribotti1 1SOCIB, Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
2CNR-ISMAR, Institute of Marine Sciences, Trieste Section, Trieste, Italy
3SOCIB, Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
4IMEDEA (CSIC-UiB), Esporles, Spain
*now at: CSIC-UTM, Marine Technology Unit, Barcelona, Spain
Abstract. Phytoplankton blooms in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea are seasonal events that mainly occur in a specific area comprising the Gulf of Lion and the Provençal basin, where they are promoted by a general cyclonic circulation, strong wind-driven mixing and subsequent re-stratification of the water column. At the southern boundary of this area, a persistent density front known as the north Balearic front can be found. The front is presumed to cause an early phytoplankton bloom in its vicinity because (a) it enhances the transport of nutrients into the euphotic layer and (b) it promotes the speedy re-stratification of the water column (through frontal instabilities). In February and March 2013, a glider, equipped with a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth device) and a fluorometer, was deployed on a mission that took it from the Balearic Islands to Sardinia and back. The frontal zone was crossed twice, once during the outbound leg and the once on the return leg. The data provided by the glider clearly showed the onset of a bloom soon after a decrease in wind-driven turbulent convection and mixing. The in situ observations were supported and confirmed by satellite imagery. It is shown that frontal dynamics play a key role in the promotion and acceleration of re-stratification, which is a necessary pre-conditioning factor for the onset of blooms much like other relevant processes such as an enhanced biological pump. Swift re-stratification stimulates new production by inhibiting mixing. Finally, viewing the blooming phenomenon from a regional perspective, it seems that Sverdrup's critical depth model applies in the northern well-mixed area whereas, in the south, front-related re-stratification seems to be the principal cause.
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Citation: Olita, A., Sparnocchia, S., Cusí, S., Fazioli, L., Sorgente, R., Tintoré, J., and Ribotti, A.: Observations of a phytoplankton spring bloom onset triggered by a density front in NW Mediterranean, Ocean Sci., 10, 657-666, https://doi.org/10.5194/os-10-657-2014, 2014.
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