Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans





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The temporal and spatial patterns of phytoplankton biomass, productivity, and particulate matter composition in the Ross Sea were assessed during cruises in January 1990 and February 1992. Biomass and primary productivity in the southern Ross Sea were greatest during mid-January, with surface chlorophyll concentrations, particulate organic carbon levels, and integrated primary productivity averaging 4.9 Ixg L 'l, 0.54 mg L-•, and 2.63 g C m"• d '•, respectively. Comparable mean concentrations and rates for February were 1.1 Ixg L 'l, 0.29 mg L 'l, and 0.78 g C m '•- d '• (decreases of 76, 46, and 70%, respectively), indicative of the scale of temporal changes. A distinct south-north transition also was observed both in productivity and phytoplankton biomass, with the lowest values occurring in the northern Ross Sea. East-west gradients in phytoplankton biomass and composition occurred within the southern Ross Sea. The areal productivity of the Ross Sea ranged from 0.15 to 2.85 g C m"• d -• and is among the highest found in the entire Antarctic. Carbon:chlorophyll ratios were uniformly high but were highest (150) in 1990 in the diatom-dominated western Ross Sea. Surface growth rates were modest, averaging less than 0.2 day '• during both seasons. We hypothesize that the marked seasonality in the region provides an environment in which net growth rates, although slow, are maximized through low loss rates and which allows biomass to accumulate in the surface layer. Furthermore, the temporal variations are quantitatively similar to the observed spatial variations. Therefore the dominant determinant of phytoplankton biomass and productivity at any one point on the Ross Sea continental shelf is the stage of the seasonal growth cycle.


doi: 10.1029/96JC01304

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