Light driven seasonal patterns of chlorophyll and nitrate in the lower euphotic zone of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

Letelier, Ricardo M., David M. Karl, Mark R. Abbott, Robert R. Bidigare

Limnol. Oceanogr., 49(2), 2004, 508-519 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2004.49.2.0508

ABSTRACT: The euphotic zone below the deep chlorophyll maximum layer (DCML) at Station ALOHA (a long-term oligotrophic habitat assessment; 22°45'N, 158°00'W) transects the nearly permanently stratified upper thermocline. Hence, seasonal changes in solar radiation control the balance between photosynthesis and respiration in this lightlimited region. Combining profiles of radiance reflectance, algal pigments, and inorganic nutrients collected between January 1998 and December 2000, we explore the relationships between photosynthetically available radiation (PAR), phytoplankton biomass (chlorophyll a), and the position of the upper nitracline in the lower euphotic zone. Seasonal variations in the water-column PAR attenuation coefficient displace the 1% sea-surface PAR depth from approximately 105 m in winter to 121 m in summer. However, the seasonal depth displacement of isolumes (constant daily integrated photon flux strata) increases to 31 m due to the added effect of changes in sea-surface PAR. This variation induces a significant deepening of the DCML during summertime with a concomitant increase in chlorophyll a and the removal of 36 mmol m-2 inorganic nitrogen [NO3- + NO2-] in the 90-200-m depth range, equivalent to approximately 34% of the annual flux of particulate nitrogen collected in sediment traps placed at 150 m. We conclude that in this oceanic region the annual light cycle at the base of the euphotic zone induces an increase in the phototrophic biomass analogous to a spring bloom event.

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