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Evolution of the phytoplankton assemblage in a long-lived mesoscale eddy in the eastern Gulf of Alaska

Tawnya D. Peterson; David W. Crawford; Paul J. Harrison

(Profiled Author: Tawnya Peterson)

Marine Ecology Progress Series. 2011;424:53-73.

Abstract

We tracked changes in the phytoplankton species composition in an anticyclonic mesoscale eddy (Haida-2000a) in the eastern Gulf of Alaska (GOA) 4 times over a 20 mo period as it propagated westward away from the coast and into high-nitrate, low-chlorophyll waters. Phytoplankton species diversity in the eddy was higher in late summer/early autumn (September) than in spring (June) and it declined between the first and second years of evolution. Phytoplankton diversity within the eddy was greater than in the surrounding area in September (but not in June) in both the first and second years of evolution. Small cells dominated the phytoplankton assemblages throughout the study at all sites. The prevalence of coastal species in the eddy and its surroundings declined between the first and second years of eddy evolution. During the same period, the contribution of haptophytes and pelagophytes increased. Haida-2000a had a lower abundance of diatoms than its surroundings after one year of evolution, possibly due to the preferential export of silica from the eddy. Pigment and phytoplankton distributions indicated that edge sites differed from the center and outside, either due to the advective entrainment of surrounding waters into eddy circulation, or as a consequence of local upwelling at the eddy margins. The data suggest that eddies may respond differently than surrounding waters to external forcing, including storms and iron deposition events, thereby contributing to variability and large-scale patchiness of phytoplankton populations observed in the GOA. © Inter-Research 2011.

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