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Coccolithophore blooms in the southwest Atlantic
Date:10/21/2010

id Painter.

He and his collaborators identified five distinct water masses, each having different characteristics, such as temperature and nutrient concentration. These water masses also varied in the amount of chlorophyll in their surface waters, indicating different levels of phytoplankton production.

During the research cruise, a large bloom of the globally ubiquitous coccolthophore species Emiliania huxleyi formed in the sub-Antarctic Shelf Water (SSW), north of the Falkland Islands. The bloom extended north along the shelf break and coincided with the distribution of reflective calcite detected from space, which was otherwise diffusely distributed. Calcite is a carbonate mineral and a common constituent of limestone. It also forms the microscopic plates 'coccoliths' that surround coccolithophores, possibly for protection.

Chemical and nutrient measurements confirmed that conditions within the SSW were especially conducive for coccolithophore bloom formation, with the right cocktail of nutrients and seawater temperature.

However, the distribution of the SSW is strongly influenced by the shelf break front, which is the focus of intense biological production. It can vary from 20 to 200 kilometres in width determining exactly where conditions are right for coccolithophore blooms.

"The complex interaction of large currents and different water masses clearly exerts strong controls over the position of coccolithophore blooms in this region,"said Painter.


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Contact: Dr. Rory Howlett
r.howlett@noc.soton.ac.uk
44-023-805-98490
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)
Source:Eurekalert  

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