The role of mesoscale variability on plankton dynamics in the North Atlantic,
Garçon, V., Oschlies, A., Doney S., McGillicuddy D., and Waniek, J.,
Deep Sea Research II, 48, 2199-2226.
The intensive field observational phase of JGOFS in the North Atlantic Ocean has shown the importance of oceanic mesoscale variability on biogeochemical cycles and on the strength of the ocean biological pump. Mesoscale physical dynamics govern the major time/space scales of bulk biological variability (biomass, production and export). Mesoscale eddies seem to have a strong impact on the ecosystem structure and functioning, but observational evidence is rather limited.
For the signature of the mesoscale features to exist in the ecosystem, the comparison of temporal scales of formation and evolution of mesoscale features and reaction of the ecosystem is a key factor. Biological patterns are driven by active changes in biological source and sink terms rather than simply by passive turbulent mixing. A first modelling assessment of the regional balances between horizontal and vertical eddy-induced nutrient supplies in the euphotic zone shows that the horizontal transport predominates over the vertical route in the subtropical gyre, whereas the reverse holds true for the other biogeochemical provinces of the North Atlantic. Presently, despite some difference in numbers, the net impact of modelled eddies yields an enhancement of the biological productivity in most provinces of the North Atlantic Ocean .
Key issues remaining include variation on the mesoscale of subsurface particle and dissolved organic matter remineralization, improved knowledge of the ecological response to patterns of variability, synopticity in mesoscale surveys along with refining measures of biogeochemical time/space variability.
Eventual success of assimilation of in situ and satellite data, still in its infancy in coupled physical/biogeochemical models, will be crucial to achieve JGOFS synthesis in answering which data are most informative, standing stocks or rates, and which ones are relevant. Depending on which end of the spectrum quantification of the effect of mesoscale features on production and community structure is required, complementary strategies are offered. Either one may choose to increase resolution of models up to the very fine mesoscale features scale (a few kms) for the high end, or to include a parametric representation of eddies for the low end.