Spring-neap modulation of internal tide mixing and vertical nitrate fluxes at a shelf edge in summer

Sharples, Jonathan, Jacqueline F. Tweddle, J. A. Mattias Green, Matthew R. Palmer, Young-Nam Kim, Anna E. Hickman, Patrick M. Holligan, C. Mark Moore, Tom P. Rippeth, John H. Simpson, Vladimir Krivtsov

Limnol. Oceanogr., 52(5), 2007, 1735-1747 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2007.52.5.1735

ABSTRACT: Measurements of the intra-tidal and spring-neap variation in the vertical flux of nitrate into the base of the sub-surface chlorophyll maximum (SCM) were made at the shelf edge of the Celtic Sea, a region with strong internal mixing driven by an internal tide. The neap tide daily mean nitrate flux was 1.3 (0.9-1.8, 95% confidence interval) mmol m-2 d-1. The spring tide flux was initially estimated as 3.5 (2.3-5.2, 95% confidence interval) mmol m-2 d-1. The higher spring tide nitrate flux was the result of turbulent dissipation occurring within the base of the SCM as compared to deeper dissipation during neap tides and was dominated by short events associated with the passage of internal solitons. Taking into account the likely under-sampling of these short mixing events raised the spring tide nitrate flux estimate to about 9 mmol m-2 d-1. The neap tide nitrate flux was sufficient to support substantial new production and a considerable fraction of the observed rates of carbon fixation. Spring tide fluxes were potentially in excess of the capacity of the phytoplankton community to uptake nitrate. This potential excess nitrate flux during spring tides may be utilized to support new production during the lower mixing associated with the transition toward neap tide. The shelf edge is shown to be a region with a significantly different phytoplankton community as compared to the adjacent Celtic Sea and northeast Atlantic Ocean, highlighting the role of gradients in physical processes leading to gradients in ecosystem structure.

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