Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Elementa-Science Of The Anthropocene






The vertical distribution and temporal changes in aggregate abundance and sizes were measured in the Ross Sea, Antarctica between 2002 and 2005 to acquire a more complete understanding of the mechanisms and rates of carbon export from the euphotic layer. Aggregate abundance was determined by photographic techniques, and water column parameters (temperature, salinity, fluorescence, transmissometry) were assessed from CTD profiles. During the first three years the numbers of aggregates increased seasonally, being much more abundant within the upper 200 m in late summer than in early summer from 50 to 100 m (12.5 L–1 in early summer vs. 42.9 L–1 in late summer). In Year 4 aggregate numbers were substantially greater than in other years, and average aggregate abundance was maximal in early rather than late summer (177 vs. 84.5 L–1), which we attributed to the maximum biomass and aggregate formation being reached earlier than in other years. The contribution of aggregate particulate organic carbon to the total particulate carbon pool was estimated to be 20%. Ghost colonies, collapsed colonies of the haptophyte Phaeocystis antarctica, were observed during late summer in Year 4, with maximum numbers in the upper 100 m of ca. 40 L–1. Aggregate abundance, particulate organic carbon and ghost colonies all decreased exponentially with depth, and the rate of ghost colony disappearance suggested that their contribution to sedimentary input was small at the time of sampling. Bottom nepheloid layers were commonly observed in late summer in both transmissometer and aggregate data. Late summer nepheloid layers had fluorescent material within them, suggesting that the particles were likely generated during the same growing season. Longer studies encompassing the entire production season would be useful in further elucidating the role of these aggregates in the carbon cycle of these regions.




Ross Sea; Antarctica; Phaeocystis; Marine snow; Carbon export

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.