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Phytoplankton distribution in the Agulhas system from a coupled physical-biological model,

Machu E., Biastoch A., Oschlies A., Kawamiya M., Lutjeharms J.R.E. and Garçon V.,

Deep Sea Research Part I, 52/7,1300-1318, 10.1016/j.dsr.2004.12.008.



The greater Agulhas Current system has several components with high mesoscale turbulence. The phytoplankton distribution in the southwest Indian Ocean reflects this activity. We have used a regional eddy-permitting, coupled physical-biological model to study the physical-biological interactions and to address the main processes responsible for phytoplankton distribution in three different biogeochemical provinces: the southwest Subtropical Indian Gyre (SWSIG), the subtropical convergence zone (SCZ) and the subantarctic waters (SAW) south of South Africa. The biological model with four compartments (Nitrate-Phytoplankton-Zooplankton-Detritus) adequately reproduces the observed field of chlorophyll a. The phase of the strong modelled seasonality in the SWSIG is opposite to that of the SCZ that forms the southern boundary of the subtropical gyre. Phytoplankton concentrations are governed by the source-minus-sink terms, which are one order of magnitude greater than the dynamical diffusion and advection terms. North of 35°S, in the SWSIG, phytoplankton growth is limited by nutrients supply throughout the year. However, deeper stratification, enhanced cross-frontal transport and higher detritus remineralization explain the simulated higher concentrations of phytoplankton found in winter in the SWSIG. The region between 351 and 401S constitutes a transition zone between the SCZ and the oligotrophic subtropical province. Horizontal advection is the main process bringing nutrients for phytoplankton growth. The front at 34°S represents a dynamical barrier to an extension further to the north of this advection of nutrients. Within the SCZ, primary production is high during spring and summer. This high productivity depletes the nutrient standing stock built up during winter time. In winter, nutrients supply in the convergence zone is indeed large, but the deep mixing removes phytoplankton from the euphotic zone and inhibits photosynthesis, yielding lower surface chlorophyll a concentrations. Waters south of the Subantarctic Front have a summer biomass close to that of frontal waters and higher than for subtropical waters. However, these simulated concentrations are slightly higher than the observed ones suggesting that limitation by iron and/or silica may play a role.



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